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April 2013

International exhaustion in copyright

Even as the dissenting judges voiced their reservations, the US Supreme Court recognised the principle of international exhaustion in the case of Kirtsaeng, DBA Bluechristine v. John Wiley & Sons

This closely watched dispute was between the student who had imported certain textbooks and resold them in the US and the US publisher. The textbooks were sold at lower prices in Thailand by a subsidiary of the US publisher.

The Supreme Court made a distinction between pirated copies, those made without proper authorisation and copies lawfully made in a foreign country but imported without authorisation. It held that protection under the First Sale doctrine was available in respect of lawfully made copies, legally obtained abroad. It was of the opinion an alternate view would give an American copyright holder permanent con­trol over the American distribution chain in respect to copies printed abroad.