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Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

United States Supreme Court
113 S. Ct. 1351 (2013)


John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated (Wiley) (plaintiff) published academic textbooks in the United States and abroad. Books printed in Asia were licensed to a foreign subsidiary and then manufactured and sold throughout Asia. The copyright notice on the foreign books stated that the books were only authorized for sale in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Supap Kirtsaeng (defendant) moved to the United States for college and stayed through completion of a PhD program. While living in the United States, Kirtsaeng had friends and family in Thailand purchase English language textbooks legally sold in Asia and ship the textbooks to Kirtsaeng. Kirtsaeng then sold the books at a lower cost than the United States editions. Wiley sued Kirtsaeng for copyright infringement based on Wiley’s exclusive right to distribute the copyright protected works. The district court held that the defense of the first-sale doctrine did not apply, because the textbooks were manufactured outside of the United States. On appeal, the majority opinion of the circuit court panel held that the first-sale doctrine did not apply to copies of American works manufactured outside of the United States. Kirtsaeng petitioned for certiorari, which was granted.

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