Copyright exhaustion in the US: what the Kirtsaeng and ReDigi decisions tell us about the future of the first sale doctrine and secondary markets for copyrighted goods
The concept of copyright ‘exhaustion’, or the ‘first sale’ doctrine, refers to the principle that once a copyright owner places a copyrighted item in the stream of commerce by selling it, they have exhausted their exclusive statutory right to control its distribution.1 This issue has recently moved to the forefront of American copyright law in the wake of two recent decisions: Kirtsaeng v John Wiley & Sons, Inc and Capital Records v ReDigi. Together, the two cases highlight an increasing need for Congress to update the Copyright Act in order to keep pace with rapidly evolving digital media and an increasingly global economy.
This article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of the Newsletter of the North American Regional Forum of the Legal Practice Division of the International Bar Association (Vol 4 No 2), and is reproduced by kind permission of the International Bar Association, London, UK. © International Bar Association.