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eBay Discusses Resale Case

Marketplace notes that extreme copyright ruling could affect many.

eBay is spreading the word about a future Supreme Court case that could impact merchants who import items for resale.

The case, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, involves an eBay seller, Supap Kirtsaeng, a graduate student at the University of Southern California in 2008 who asked relatives in Thailand to buy textbooks in the Asian country and send them to him in the United States, so he could sell the books online to help pay for tuition, according to eBay’s Main Street blog.

The textbooks’ publisher eventually learned of Kirtsaeng’s sales and sued him for $600,000—15 times what Kirtsaeng made selling the books, Main Street reports. The publisher claimed Kirtsaeng could not resell the books because of copyright laws. Kirtsaeng noted he had the right to sell the books because he owned them, calling on the first sale doctrine.

However, a lower court found him guilty of violating copyright laws, noting that since the books were made outside the U.S. and then imported, the doctrine did not apply, according to the Citizens for Ownership Rights, a league of public interest groups that is gathering signatures in response to the ruling.

The organization intends to send the signatures to President Barack Obama and the attorney general. The Main Street blog notes that “an extreme application of U.S. copyright law” could mean sellers who import items from overseas manufacturers may have to get permission from the manufacturers before they can sell or donate items.

“This rule could affect most of the goods we use every day, from books to cell phones,” the blog states. “Manufacturers would retain ownership of an item no matter how times it changes owner. This rule could threaten the laws of ownership and resale that we all enjoy.”

The case is expected to appear before the Supreme Court in the fall. People can sign the petition at

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Lentradirect

    does this mean everything we import from China cannot be on sold?

  • Bob

    So, that means that Amazon cannot sell USED BOOKS either?!

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