You could lose your right to sell your own stuff

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Yes, you have read that right. If the case currently in the US Supreme Court that is on the docket this session is successful for the claimant the it could cost you your right to sell items that you actually legally own.

yard saleThe case is called Kirstaeng v. John Wiley & Sons and involves copyright law. If the current ruling is upheld by the Supreme Court, you would have to get permission from copyright holders of products before you could resell them.

These products include everything from electronics, to music, to furniture and books.

Think about the businesses that this would hit... everything from yard sales to Ebay...and even the Salvation Army. You also would not be able to sell your car, or anything else for that matter. In fact it could become illegal to resell your iPhone 4, car or family antiques, or whatever else.

At issue in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons is the first-sale doctrine in copyright law, which allows you to buy and then sell things like electronics, books, artwork and furniture, as well as CDs and DVDs, without getting permission from the copyright holder of those products.

Under the doctrine, which the Supreme Court has recognized since 1908, you can resell your stuff without worry because the copyright holder only had control over the first sale.

Put simply, though Apple Inc. has the copyright on the iPhone and Mark Owen has it on the book “No Easy Day,” you can still sell your copies to whomever you please whenever you want without retribution.

That’s being challenged now for products that are made abroad, and if the Supreme Court upholds an appellate court ruling, it would mean that the copyright holders of anything you own that has been made in China, Japan or Europe, for example, would have to give you permission to sell it.

Which means that it will be harder for consumers to buy used products and harder for them to sell them and this has huge consumer impact on all consumer groups.

If John Wiley & Sons win this case then you would first have to get the permission of the copyright holder to resell the product that you already purchased, then you would have to pay them royalties for selling it.

Your rights are at risk of being taken away from every corner of your being. This is just another example of one that you would never see coming. And while this case may, so far, only be in the US it is obvious that if Wiley and Sons win there they will try the same thing in Europe and elsewhere.

Every yard sale, every flea market, every e-Bay trader, every car boot sale (flea market/yard sale in UK) and every private sale of goods mentioned, and probably many more, could be affected. Every Charity Shop and Goodwill Store and every second hand shop will be under treat from this case in the current session of the SCOTUS.

Already it is illegal to pass on – not just by sale – MP3s that you own, Kindle books and other e-books and there are one or two other items on that list as well. Now it could become illegal altogether to sell any of your possessions legally or for a charity to sell any goods that someone has donated to them.

We are losing our rights left, right and center to tyrannical governments and greedy corporations. I can understand a the author of a self-published book to request that PDFs are not duplicated and passed on, free or by sale, but the huge corporations who earn millions, and giving authors a pittance I cannot.

© 2012