Supreme Court to hear arguments in case of student who resold books
October 28th, 2012
03:04 PM ET

Supreme Court to hear arguments in case of student who resold books

By Bill Mears, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Supap Kirtsaeng had tuition and living expenses to pay when he arrived in the United States from Thailand to attend college.

So he started a side business, asking family and friends back home to ship him foreign editions of textbooks that often can be bought more cheaply overseas. Kirtsaeng resold them online and made money, but he was sued for copyright infringement and lost.

That decision was appealed and the case is now before the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on Monday in a dispute that has attracted interest from the Obama administration, media and publishing companies, and a range of consumer and retail groups.

Competing claims of intellectual property and owners rights in the electronic age have made Kirtsaeng's venture one of the most closely watched business cases at the high court this term.

"I have to say the Supreme Court is faced with a really difficult job here because the text of the [copyright] statute really seems to be hard to reconcile - the two provisions at issue seem to say opposite things," said Michael Carroll, a professor at American University's law school and an intellectual property expert.

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Filed under: Legal issues • Policy • Textbooks
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Hamdy I

    Well if you needed money what would you do? He did what he had to do. Also, you can't epect money to grow out of thin air, you have to work for it and he did!

    October 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  2. Mara

    So does that mean all the mom-n-pop used book stores are violating the law?! What other products don't really belong to me even after I purchase them? The books were purchased at face value, thus giving the author, the publisher, and the distributor their rightful profits. Once it become mine through purchase, I should be able to do ANYthing I want with it, (other than claim I wrote or published it). Basically, what SCOTUS has done is emperiled the private ownership of books. I mean, if you can't sell 'em...they aren't really 'yours' anyway.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • shootmyownfood

      You are so right about that. Who knew we were just renting books purchased in hard copy. In addition, I do not recall any language included in any book I've ever read prohibiting me from selling it if I like.

      October 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  3. Hannah

    I think that there is definitely something wrong with what Supap did here. Have you ever seen someone selling individual pieces of candy that clearly says "not marked for individual sale"? People need to understand that there are times to sell things second-hand and there are times to not.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  4. Sarah

    I think it is fine. Some people like to go to hand-me-down stores because the prices are cheaper for name-brand clothes that you can barely tell are used. Plenty of people still have yard sales so they can get rid of their stuff and make money out of it! There is nothing wrong with that! The guy from Thailand was not doing anything wrong. Plenty of people do what he did every day. He was just trying to get money to pay for college. Lot's of people have to do that so I think he should not have been sued!

    October 29, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Chanel

      If he was having family send him copies of text books because they could be purchased cheaper from Thailand, then he is guilty. He purchased new books and resold at a higher price. Please Sarah, yard sales are 99.9999999% old or used stuff, not new text books!

      October 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
      • shootmyownfood

        Once you buy an item at any price, it is then yours to do with what you wish. If the publishers have a problem with being undersold, either raise the price overseas so it is not economical to buy and resell, or offer the books for sale in the United States. Simple.

        October 30, 2012 at 4:18 pm |