Library Copyright Alliance: Kirtsaeng case threatens library lending

Library Copyright AllianceThe Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) filed an amicus curiae brief (PDF) earlier this week with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of petitioner Supap Kirtsaeng in the case Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons. The Alliance is comprised of the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

Wiley, a publisher of textbooks, claims Kirtsaeng infringed its copyrights by re-selling cheaper foreign editions of Wiley textbooks in the U.S. that his family lawfully purchased abroad. The LCA believes an adverse decision in this case could affect libraries’ right to lend books and other materials manufactured abroad.

The “first-sale doctrine” is the provision in the Copyright Act that allows any purchaser of a legal copy of a book or other copyrighted work to sell or lend that copy. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the first-sale doctrine applied only to copies manufactured in the United States. This odd interpretation of the law effectively strips libraries of their first sale right to lend their own copies of works made abroad.

In its friend of the court brief, the LCA asks the Supreme Court to reverse the Second Circuit and apply the first-sale doctrine to all copies manufactured with the lawful authorization of the holder of a work’s U.S. copyright.

This is the second case the Supreme Court has heard on this issue in the last two years. In Costco v. Omega (LCA brief here (PDF)), a case involving the importation of luxury watches with copyrighted logos on them, the Court was deadlocked 4-4, leaving the issue unresolved. Justice Kagan recused herself from the case due to her participation in the lower court when she was Solicitor General, but Justice Kagan will participate in Kirtsaeng.

Read more about the brief.

Jazzy Wright is the Press Officer of the American Library Association's Washington Office. Email her at jwright@alawash.org.

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