Important case coming up (h/t Nina Paley). See also Your right to resell your own stuff is in peril and Supreme Court to decide the fate of eBay, Craigslist.
I have discussed this previously in Libraries: Prepare to burn foreign books, courtesy copyright law and other posts. For libertarians still on the fence about copyright (which is the cause of all this), this ought to give them pause.
Here, lower courts have interpreted copyright law so that the first sale doctrine does not apply if the item bearing copyright-protected designs or information (such as a watch, books, furniture), which means that for items made and sold overseas, and then sold to some customer in the US, the copyright owner can prohibit resales of the physical item, lending of books, and so on. (The first sale doctrine, if it applied, would prevent the copyright holder from interfering.)
Note that this is an example the danger of classifying copyright as a “property” right (see Classifying Patent and Copyright Law as “Property”: So What?; Tom Bell: Copyright Erodes Property?; and “Copyright as Intellectual
Property Privilege“). It can lead to the importation of copyright doctrines like “fair use” into the realm of physical property, such as a “fair trespass” right one scholar proposed for physical property by analogy to copyright law.
And in the current case, here we have copyright law potentially being used to seriously restrict the property rights of owners of physical objects like books, furniture, paintings, jewelry, and so on.
US court to rule on ReDigi’s MP3 digital music resales
By Kim Gittleson
BBC News, New York
A US court is to consider a case that could determine whether digital media files can be resold.
One-year-old start-up ReDigi is battling music giant EMI over whether digital music can be retraded after it has been legally purchased.
ReDigi says that its software is designed to comply with existing United States copyright laws.
But EMI argues a legal principle which allows consumers to resell purchased material goods does not apply.
A judge at the district court in Manhattan, New York, will hear opening arguments in the case on Friday after EMI sued ReDigi for copyright infringement earlier this year.