Monday, October 8, 2012

What Fresh Hell is This?

The uptick I see is the sudden dearth of garage sales upon the suburban landscape. Other than that, I can’t see this working.

Here’s the situation: Supap Kirtsaeng, a Thai studying at Cornell University, had friends and relatives buy a bunch of textbooks in Thailand that he then re-sold in the United States at a profit of about $1.2 million. Nobody stole the books. They were just purchased in another country and sold here. Wiley, the publisher, got wind of the sale and had a conniption fit and is suing Kirtsaeng for copyright infringement. Kirtsaeng countered, saying he had the right to sell the books since they were his – he and his relatives bought them.

Now the case is heading to the Supreme Court, bringing with it the spectre of disallowing the sale of stuff we already paid for if the first sale occurred in another country.

While that doesn’t sound like the end of the world, it is kind of startling to think that, say, you bought a used book from a guy in England and then, after reading it, decided you wanted to sell it yourself. If the SCOTUS agrees with Wiley, such a sale would be banned, or at least you’d have to give the publisher a cut.

This seems wrong.

I already won’t buy digital copies of books and music and movies for this reason, since the original sellers have proved to be a bit grabby and won’t allow me to re-sell what I buy. To think they want to do that with tangible, real, in-your-hand stuff now? Do not want.

All Kirtsaeng did was bring cheaper textbooks to the United States – the books were sold in his native Thailand by Wiley far less expensively than Wiley offered them in the United States. Certainly Wiley was out money for books that could have been sold by them in the US for the higher prices, but there’s certainly nothing stopping individual students from textbook shopping and finding the books for cheap on the open market. But since an individual made a business of doing so, I guess that’s a no-no? Though I can’t figure out why. HE BOUGHT THE DARN BOOKS. They’re his to re-sell, and if Wiley can’t match his price in the United States, well, that’s capitalism, baby.

No comments: