A case is in progress in US, in which plaintiff is John Wiley & Sons Inc. and defendant is Kirtsaeng. The complaint was made under Section 602 (a) (1) of Copyright Act of United States of America (USA), which prohibits unauthorized import of a work without the permission of the copyright owner. The defendant counter filed under Section 109 (a) of Copyright Act, which states that the owner of a copy ‘lawfully made under this title’ can sell or otherwise dispose of the copy without the permission of the owner of the copyright. He even stated that he had purchased original copy which was legal and then imported it to USA.


Kirtsaeng is a Thai student studying in USA. He found out that there was a huge price difference in the textbooks that were sold in USA and Thailand by the same publishers (only a little difference was of versions). He then bought books from Thailand and other countries legally, which were imported back to USA. He sold the same at lower price than the marked up US price. When plaintiff found out this they filed a lawsuit against him saying that first sale doctrine was not over in USA because those books were not bought in USA. So, copyright owners still had their rights on the same.

irst sale doctrine: In copyright statute there is an exception which is known as copyright exhaustion or the first sale doctrine under 17 U.S.C. 109. It states:

“The owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title, or any person authorized by such owner, is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.”

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·   Plaintiffs want to stop Kirtsaeng from selling their books in USA.

·    For this they give the excuse that first sale doctrine is still valid in USA because these books were not bought in USA


Defendant claimed that he has purchased all the books legally so Section 109 (a) of Copyright Act, lawfully, makes him the owner of those books and rights of the original authors have already exhausted. Thus, there is no case against him.


Judgment on this case is awaited. Whole of the legal fraternity is looking forward to this decision.


This would be a landmark decision with respect to International Exhaustion of copyrights. Many other publishing houses will also be looking forward to this case. Wiley’s points of arguments were found to interest the Federal Circuit. But we never know what could be the final decision. Copyright protections have been taken up seriously by big publishing houses nowadays. In India also there was a case between Oxford University Press (OUP) and Delhi University (DU) where OUP won and DU was warned not to copy the contents from OUP’s books.