Writing for Thomson-Reuters' "On the case" blog, Alison Frankel recently discussed a Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that may affect libraries' ability to lend books published or manufactured outside of the United States.
According to Frankel, the case in question, John Wiley & Sons vs. Kirtsaeng, "asks the court to decide whether the first-sale doctrine applies to works manufactured abroad or only to those made in the United States. The doctrine is usually interpreted to mean that owners of a lawfully produced work may resell it without the authority of the original copyright owner."
Wiley is pursuing the case to prevent texts obtained at lower costs outside the United States from being sold in this market. In ruling that books published or manufactured outside the U.S. are not protected as part of the first-sale doctrine, the Second Circuit Court opened the door to a related question: can libraries lend books with those characteristics?
Although the first-sale doctrine is second nature in the United States, it is not common outside the country. Differences in laws and their local applications make enforcement of a common standard difficult, particularly as territorial boundaries are challenged by the growth of digital content.
The Supreme Court of the United States has yet to consider the Second Court decision, and a middle-ground solution may still be possible. Still, as global markets grow and digital content becomes common (if not necessarily dominant), these kinds of unexpected conflicts seem likely to grow in both number and breadth.