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First Sale and Kirtsaeng v. Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Please note that ALA cannot give legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should contact an intellectual property attorney.
The “first sale” doctrine (17 U.S.C. § 109(a)) gives the owners of copyrighted works the rights to sell, lend, or share their copies without having to obtain permission or pay fees. The copy becomes like any piece of physical property; you’ve purchased it, you own it. You cannot make copies and sell them—the copyright owner retains those rights. But the physical book is yours. First sale has long been important for libraries, as it allows them to lend books without legal hurdles. (Jenkins, Jennifer. 2014. "Last Sale? Libraries’ Rights In The Digital Age". College & Research Libraries News 75 (2): 69-75.)
Quite simply, first sale is what allows libraries to do what we do – lend books and materials to our patrons, the public.
ALA Resources about First Sale
The First Sale Doctrine in the Era of Digital Networks
This paper by a law professor from the University of California begins with the origins of copyright law's first-sale doctrine which stems from a 1908 Supreme Court case that allows the owner of any particular lawful copy of a copyrighted work to resell, rent, lend, or give away that copy without the copyright owner's permission.
Last sale? Libraries’ rights in the digital age
An article explaining what rights libraries have in the digital age and how it impacts their ability to lend ebooks.
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA)
DMCA Section 104 Report on First Sale
The U.S. Copyright Office issued a report at the end of August 2001 that had been mandated by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. That law directed the Copyright Office and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to make a report to Congress "no later than 24 months after the enactment of DMCA" (October 2000) on the effects on the "first sale doctrine" of the DMCA and the development of electronic commerce. The NTIA released its report in March 2001, concluding that it was "premature to draw any conclusions or make any legislative recommendations at this time."
Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA)
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) became effective in October 2000 . This landmark legislation updated U.S. copyright law to meet the demands of the Digital Age and to conform U.S. law to the requirements of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and treaties that the U.S. signed in 1996.
Additional Resources on First Sale