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First sale doctrine saves scam artist

by EMILY BEZERRA Social Media Coordinator

College graduate Supap Kirtsaeng, whom some may call a scam artist, used the first sale doctrine to his advantage by selling textbooks on eBay exploiting a method known as “buy low sell high.” It seems that everyone EXCEPT the Supreme Court find Kirtsaeng’s method criminal, which upheld in a 6-3 hearing that the first sale doctrine applies to products made overseas.

Kirtsaeng is a Thai student with an entrepreneur mentality. What began as a plan to help pay for his college expenses ended up gaining him financial success and legal trouble.

Kirtsaeng attended Cornell University and the University of Southern California. His native relatives from Thailand purchased textbooks and shipped them to him in the US. He opened an account on the popular retail website eBay and sold them for a much higher price than they were purchased for in Thailand, profiting the Thai student extremely.

“This kid’s a genius, I wish I thought of this idea first,” says senior Aaron Potter.

This case was first debated the Supreme Court back in August, but it has taken them until the end of March to determine what is lawfully right under such circumstances.

The First Sale Doctrine is a general rule for products made in the United States that states that the owners of certain copies may do as they please with them. For example, if one purchases a CD or novel made in the US, they can lend it or sell it to whomever they please under their conditions. This has stirred up much controversy in the Supreme Court, bringing to question whether or not this applies to copies made abroad.

John Wiley & Sons are the publishers of the particular textbooks Kirtsaeng has been selling on eBay. Publishers of textbooks are like any other manufacturers – they charge different prices in different markets. Of course John Wiley & Sons were outraged and felt they were being scammed, which led the publishers to sue Kirtsaeng for $600,000.

“It  seems like this kid is ripping off John Wiley & Sons but in all honesty it’s a pretty clever idea. If he got away with it, good for him,” says sophomore Brina Haugland.

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