Back at the beginning of time, well, to be honest Rabett Run, but did anything exist before, Eli had two excellent rants (Rant I and Rant II)
about textbook prices and the machinations of the publishers. As you may have noticed in the US when your kid
goes to college, the price of General Chemistry textbooks has shattered the $200 barrier. On the other hand, in markets where students are free to buy their own books, the price is much lower. For example, the International paperback edition (you can only get the hardcover in the US) costs ~$80 list and you can get it discounted. It is even less expensive in less expensive countries, which brings Eli to the law.
It turns out that the publishers think it illegal to bring textbooks into the US from overseas, bought at those lower prices, and they sue people who do, or at least those who raise their heads above the parapets. Thanks to David Post at Volokh, Eli can now report that it is no longer so. In a case decided by the US Supreme Court
Petitioner, Supap Kirtsaeng, a citizen of Thailand, moved to the United States in 1997 to study mathematics at Cornell University. . . .While he was studying in the United States, Kirtsaeng asked his friends and family in Thailand to buy copies of foreign edition English-language textbooks at Thai book shops, where they sold at low prices, and mail them to him in the United States. Kirtsaeng would then sell them, reimburse his family and friends, and keep the profit.Justice Breyer writing for the court found for Kirtsaieng remanding the case back to the Court of Appeals whose decision was reversed. The dissenters were Ginsberg, Scalia and Kennedy.
In 2008 Wiley brought this federal lawsuit against Kirtsaeng for copyright infringement. Wiley claimed that Kirtsaeng's unauthorized importation of its books and his later resale of those books amounted to an infringement of Wiley's exclusive right to distribute as well as related import prohibition. Kirtsaeng replied that the books he had acquired were "`lawfully made'" and that he had acquired them legitimately. Thus, in his view, "first sale" doctrine permitted him to resell or otherwise dispose of the books without the copyright owner's further permission.
On Tuesday, Eli was visited by a textbook rep flogging his wares. The Rabett mentioned that he really was not interested in asking his students to buy a $200 book, but maybe they would sell the less expensive paperback or the hardcover that they sold overseas, only to receive the snort version of you should live so long. Eli suspects that in this brave new world he has lived that long. Many are already thinking of this as a business opportunity.