Supreme Court justices on Monday weighed copyright protections for publishers, creative artists and manufacturers in a global marketplace in a case that has attracted the interest of Costco, eBay and Google. The outcome has important implications for consumers and multibillion dollar annual sales online and in discount stores.
The court was about the only Washington institution open on Monday. The justices and spectators who braved the rain and wind saw a book publisher face off against a Thai graduate student in the U.S. who resold the publisher's copyrighted books on eBay after relatives first bought nearly identical, cheaper versions abroad.
The court seemed to struggle with whether it matters where the books were produced and first sold.
The justices' answer to those questions is of enormous interest to discount sellers like Costco and online business like eBay and Google that offer good prices on many products that were made abroad.
Publisher John Wiley & Sons won a copyright infringement lawsuit against the student, Supap Kirtsaeng. The high court is considering Kirtsaeng's appeal, which argues that Wiley lost its right to control resale of the books once his relatives bought them legally.