WASHINGTON (CN) – A man whose sale of foreign textbooks on eBay carved out new copyright case law persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to take up another dispute Friday.
Supap Kirtsaeng used his Bluechristine99 account on eBay to finance a doctorate in mathematics at the University of Southern California after graduating from Cornell University. Kirtsaeng said his friends and family back home in Thailand shipped him foreign-edition textbooks made by John Wiley & Sons, and that he kept the profits for himself after reimbursing the purchase costs.
The student later found work teaching in Thailand, a condition of one of the scholarships that also helped fund his education.
In 2008, he also found himself the subject of a lawsuit from Wiley, which accused him of selling eight foreign editions of its publications to U.S. consumers.
The company relies on an Asian subsidiary to manufacture books for sale in foreign countries, and these editions are usually marked with a legend to designate that they are to be sold only in a particular country or region.
Wiley said Kirtsaeng earned $1.2 million through the sales of its books, though Kirtsaeng put the figure at $900,000.
The federal Copyright Act would usually exempt sales such as those that Kirtsaeng made under the first-sale doctrine, codified at Section 109, but application of that rule to foreign works is novel.
Chief Judge Donald Pogue, who presided over the Manhattan trial by designation from the U.S. Court of International Trade, refused to let Kirtsaeng use the first-sale doctrine as a defense.
A federal jury then ordered Supap Kirtsaeng to pay Wiley $600,000 in damages, and a divided panel of the 2nd Circuit rejected Kirtsaeng’s appeal entirely in August 2011.
After the Supreme Court reversed in 2013, the 2nd Circuit chucked the $600,000 judgment.
Kirtsaeng’s legal troubles did not there, however, as a federal judge denied him attorneys’ fees.
The Second Circuit affirmed last year, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to take up this new dispute.
Per its custom, the court did not issue any comment on the matter.
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