Copyright and re-sales from overseas

The Supreme Court is considering a case that requires the wisdom of Solomon:

Supap Kirtsaeng was studying in the United States when he struck a nerve in the publishing world by tapping into the market for cheaper college textbooks. Kirtsaeng re-sold copyrighted books that relatives first bought abroad.

His profitable venture provoked a copyright infringement lawsuit from publisher John Wiley & Sons. The case is being argued Monday at the high court.

Kirtsaeng used eBay to sell $900,000 worth of books published abroad by Wiley and others and made about $100,000 in profit. The international editions of the textbooks were essentially the same as the more costly American editions. A jury in New York awarded Wiley $600,000 after deciding Kirtsaeng sold copies of eight Wiley textbooks without permission.

The issue at the Supreme Court concerns what protection the holder of a copyright has after a product made outside the United States is sold for the first time. In this case, the issue is whether U.S. copyright protection applies to items that are made abroad, purchased abroad and then resold in the U.S. without the permission of the manufacturer. The high court split 4-4 when it tried to answer that question in a case in 2010 involving Costco and Swiss watch maker Omega. . . .

The court already has rejected copyright claims over U.S.-made items that were sold abroad and then brought back to the United States for re-sale.

The current case has attracted so much attention because it could affect many goods sold on eBay, Google and other Internet sites, and at Costco and other discount stores. The re-sale of merchandise that originates overseas often is called the gray market, and it has an annual value in the tens of billions of dollars.

Consumers benefit from this market because manufacturers commonly price items more cheaply abroad than in the United States.

The federal appeals court in New York sided with Wiley in this case.

EBay and Google say in court papers that the appellate ruling “threatens the increasingly important e-commerce sector of the economy.” Art museums fear that the ruling, if allowed to stand, would jeopardize their ability to exhibit art created outside the United States.

Conversely, the producers of copyrighted movies, music and other goods say that their businesses will be undercut by unauthorized sales if the court blesses Kirtsaeng’s actions. . . .

[Attorney Theodore]  Olson said there may be good reasons why manufacturers price the same goods differently for domestic and foreign sales, including lower incomes and standards of living in many foreign countries.

via Online, discount sellers back Thai student in Supreme Court copyright case – The Washington Post.

This would seem to be a corollary of the global economy.  Prices are lower in some lower-income markets.  But now it’s possible for consumers in high-price markets to use the internet to buy from the lower-cost countries.

Buying drugs from Canada would be another example, once considered by pharmacy companies as even less fair because the Canadian government subsidizes drugs in that country and makes them cheaper than the free market would dictate.

The advantage to consumers is obvious, but can a company stay in business that way?  Would it force companies to charge high-price market rates in poor countries, thus preventing citizens of poorer nations from buying what they need and would otherwise be able to buy?

And copyright adds another dimension.  Writers get nothing when their works are re-sold in used bookstores or online, which has always struck me, being an author, as wrong, though I can’t think of an alternative that wouldn’t also be wrong.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    One of the basic theories of trade economics is the LOOP: the Law Of One Price, which says that over time prices will reach a common level. Unless, of course, governments create and impose legal barriers to the formation of market prices. This case is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

    It is also illustrative of the dynamics of market segmentation, captive markets, and price discrimination. Price discrimination is usually frowned upon, but here we see it actively upheld by the courts. Why? Because our legal strictures hold to a defined monopoly under copyright. Another case where the law acts against economics.

    I will say that the defendants should argue that the products are differentiated. Usually the foreign copies are made on thinner paper, without color; U.S. books have thick paper and glossy color prints. Moreover, with the cozy relationship between textbook publishing and the professoriate’s required course texts, exorbitant prices are the express aim and desire of the publishers. Even the college textbook resale market is highly rigged (or price fixed, if you will). If a college student spent each semester for new textbooks, they would likely add an additional $1000+ to their annual college expenses. If they resold those books, they still would be out 90 cents on the dollar spent.

    As economic theory, law really, says: Nothing raises prices and diminishes consumer welfare like legally protected monopolies. That is what this case is about: protecting monopoly privilege.

  • SKPeterson

    One of the basic theories of trade economics is the LOOP: the Law Of One Price, which says that over time prices will reach a common level. Unless, of course, governments create and impose legal barriers to the formation of market prices. This case is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

    It is also illustrative of the dynamics of market segmentation, captive markets, and price discrimination. Price discrimination is usually frowned upon, but here we see it actively upheld by the courts. Why? Because our legal strictures hold to a defined monopoly under copyright. Another case where the law acts against economics.

    I will say that the defendants should argue that the products are differentiated. Usually the foreign copies are made on thinner paper, without color; U.S. books have thick paper and glossy color prints. Moreover, with the cozy relationship between textbook publishing and the professoriate’s required course texts, exorbitant prices are the express aim and desire of the publishers. Even the college textbook resale market is highly rigged (or price fixed, if you will). If a college student spent each semester for new textbooks, they would likely add an additional $1000+ to their annual college expenses. If they resold those books, they still would be out 90 cents on the dollar spent.

    As economic theory, law really, says: Nothing raises prices and diminishes consumer welfare like legally protected monopolies. That is what this case is about: protecting monopoly privilege.

  • Erik Mansoor

    If a writer sells a book, he or she should certainly receive a royalty on every new book sold. But if I purchase a used book, I should expect to pay a lower price. After all, a used book has certain wear and tear which diminishes the value. If a carpenter manufactures a table, should he receive a payment beyond the initial sale?

  • Erik Mansoor

    If a writer sells a book, he or she should certainly receive a royalty on every new book sold. But if I purchase a used book, I should expect to pay a lower price. After all, a used book has certain wear and tear which diminishes the value. If a carpenter manufactures a table, should he receive a payment beyond the initial sale?

  • EricM

    Sorry Dr. Veith but the author receives compensation for the work when it is first sold. I also have books out there (3 different titles with one in its 3rd edition) and I receive royalties for the first sale. I have received the payment due to me for the work I put into the book. No further compensation is due if the book is resold. As Erik said @2, if the carpenter manufactures a table, should he receive a payment beyond the initial sale? Obviously not. The same is true for the builder of a house.

    In this case, the prices the publisher charges are different in different parts of the world. That is a nice racket if you can find it. You charge what the market will bear and you do this in lots of little markets around the world. In this way you can maximize your profit.

    This works just fine until a funny little thing like the Internet comes along and changes the face of things. No longer are there all these little markets in which to play games. Instead, a single market appears. Now, the publisher must figure out how to price the book to maximize profit in a market that includes people with many resources (the US, Canada, Europe, etc.) and people with few resources. If you price it too high, you will price many people out of the market. If you price it too low, you will leave profit on the table. Oh well, that is reality.

    Taking this to the courts to try to force the world to stay in separate markets so that you can keep your old models is just wrong. The courts should toss this case.

  • EricM

    Sorry Dr. Veith but the author receives compensation for the work when it is first sold. I also have books out there (3 different titles with one in its 3rd edition) and I receive royalties for the first sale. I have received the payment due to me for the work I put into the book. No further compensation is due if the book is resold. As Erik said @2, if the carpenter manufactures a table, should he receive a payment beyond the initial sale? Obviously not. The same is true for the builder of a house.

    In this case, the prices the publisher charges are different in different parts of the world. That is a nice racket if you can find it. You charge what the market will bear and you do this in lots of little markets around the world. In this way you can maximize your profit.

    This works just fine until a funny little thing like the Internet comes along and changes the face of things. No longer are there all these little markets in which to play games. Instead, a single market appears. Now, the publisher must figure out how to price the book to maximize profit in a market that includes people with many resources (the US, Canada, Europe, etc.) and people with few resources. If you price it too high, you will price many people out of the market. If you price it too low, you will leave profit on the table. Oh well, that is reality.

    Taking this to the courts to try to force the world to stay in separate markets so that you can keep your old models is just wrong. The courts should toss this case.

  • Cincinnatus

    If you think this case requires the “wisdom of Solomon,” then I fear for our nation’s future. Sure, the court should rule in favor of the publishers–if they want to outlaw yard sales, thrift stores, and used car lots.

  • Cincinnatus

    If you think this case requires the “wisdom of Solomon,” then I fear for our nation’s future. Sure, the court should rule in favor of the publishers–if they want to outlaw yard sales, thrift stores, and used car lots.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    I may be a bit nerdy, but my souvenir from a trip to South Korea last year was an English-language geology textbook that I paid $35 for new instead of $100+. Same book, better price. The textbook industry in the US is a scam.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    I may be a bit nerdy, but my souvenir from a trip to South Korea last year was an English-language geology textbook that I paid $35 for new instead of $100+. Same book, better price. The textbook industry in the US is a scam.

  • Jon

    Well, then, maybe publishers should start using the electronic media to beat these entrpreneur salesmen at their own game. Publishers could just start publishing all books in e-format, and impose digital rights with them. Apple’s gotten pretty good at DRM in its iTunes, for example. I bet publishers could do the same to secure their rights and profits.

  • Jon

    Well, then, maybe publishers should start using the electronic media to beat these entrpreneur salesmen at their own game. Publishers could just start publishing all books in e-format, and impose digital rights with them. Apple’s gotten pretty good at DRM in its iTunes, for example. I bet publishers could do the same to secure their rights and profits.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I would think this is a contract issue, not a copyright issue.

    If manufacturers don’t want their foreign market goods resold in the USA, then they should arrange the appropriate contracts with their distributors, requiring them to put contractual restrictions on the what the retail customer can do with the goods he buys.

    However, that could be pretty onerous, and not very popular with the retail customer.

    Perhaps the manufacturers just need to accept the consequences of participating in a global market, and adjust their prices and distribution strategies accordingly.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I would think this is a contract issue, not a copyright issue.

    If manufacturers don’t want their foreign market goods resold in the USA, then they should arrange the appropriate contracts with their distributors, requiring them to put contractual restrictions on the what the retail customer can do with the goods he buys.

    However, that could be pretty onerous, and not very popular with the retail customer.

    Perhaps the manufacturers just need to accept the consequences of participating in a global market, and adjust their prices and distribution strategies accordingly.

  • DonS

    Exhaustion is a good doctrine in intellectual property, whether it be copyrights or patents. Once the product has been legitimately purchased, from the rightful author, it should be the right of the purchaser to do with that product whatever he/she wants to, including importing into and reselling in the U.S.

    Keep in mind, though, that the courts have found conditioned sales to be valid. For this reason, a purchaser of software typically purchases it with conditions on use, even to the point of the sale usually being identified as a license. Should these publishers ultimately lose on the issue of copyright exhaustion, I would not be surprised to see them selling future editions with the equivalent of “shrinkwrap licenses”.

  • DonS

    Exhaustion is a good doctrine in intellectual property, whether it be copyrights or patents. Once the product has been legitimately purchased, from the rightful author, it should be the right of the purchaser to do with that product whatever he/she wants to, including importing into and reselling in the U.S.

    Keep in mind, though, that the courts have found conditioned sales to be valid. For this reason, a purchaser of software typically purchases it with conditions on use, even to the point of the sale usually being identified as a license. Should these publishers ultimately lose on the issue of copyright exhaustion, I would not be surprised to see them selling future editions with the equivalent of “shrinkwrap licenses”.

  • Jimmy Veith

    It seems to me that authors could protect themselves by negotiating a higher percentage of their royalty interests for books or recordings that are sold overseas.

    For example, an author could get a 10% royalty on a book sold in the United States for $50.00, and get $5.00. He could get a 20% royalty on a book sold in India for $25.00.00 and still get his $5.00. Am I missing something?

  • Jimmy Veith

    It seems to me that authors could protect themselves by negotiating a higher percentage of their royalty interests for books or recordings that are sold overseas.

    For example, an author could get a 10% royalty on a book sold in the United States for $50.00, and get $5.00. He could get a 20% royalty on a book sold in India for $25.00.00 and still get his $5.00. Am I missing something?

  • The Jones

    This reminds me of Harry Potter, where Goblins believe that when they sell something, they don’t every give up their right to the item. They merely loan it to the purchaser and the purchaser alone until his death, at which point the item should be returned to the manufacturer.

    The wizards in that story dismissed this view as ridiculous, and only placated the goblins on the margins to calm their rage. I think something similar might be in store here.

  • The Jones

    This reminds me of Harry Potter, where Goblins believe that when they sell something, they don’t every give up their right to the item. They merely loan it to the purchaser and the purchaser alone until his death, at which point the item should be returned to the manufacturer.

    The wizards in that story dismissed this view as ridiculous, and only placated the goblins on the margins to calm their rage. I think something similar might be in store here.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    How does this work for software? Can there be a market for used computer software?

    In the case of a book, is the author’s product an object consisting of ink marks on paper all bound together? If so, then certainly it can be bought and sold and resold like other tangible objects. Now, though, we authors are encouraged to think of our work as the creative ideas that can manifest themselves on different “platforms,” including hard printed copies, e-books, and works that exist “in the cloud.”

    If I buy a book, I can give it to you. If I buy an e-book, can I give it to you? Or sell it to you? Since it can be mass produced and distributed at no appreciable cost, that would be the end of copyright. “Digitized content” becomes more like software, which needs some kind of licensing arrangement.

    The reason textbooks are so expensive is, in part, the used textbook market, which forces publishers and authors to make all of their money from the first printing, after which, the used book dealers take over, making money without giving the publishers or the authors anything. It’s a vicious circle, of course, and then it does become a scam, as the publishers keep churning out expensive new editions to thwart the used book sellers and to create a revenue stream.

    I do think the answer is electronic publishing, though exactly how that will work remains to be worked out.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    How does this work for software? Can there be a market for used computer software?

    In the case of a book, is the author’s product an object consisting of ink marks on paper all bound together? If so, then certainly it can be bought and sold and resold like other tangible objects. Now, though, we authors are encouraged to think of our work as the creative ideas that can manifest themselves on different “platforms,” including hard printed copies, e-books, and works that exist “in the cloud.”

    If I buy a book, I can give it to you. If I buy an e-book, can I give it to you? Or sell it to you? Since it can be mass produced and distributed at no appreciable cost, that would be the end of copyright. “Digitized content” becomes more like software, which needs some kind of licensing arrangement.

    The reason textbooks are so expensive is, in part, the used textbook market, which forces publishers and authors to make all of their money from the first printing, after which, the used book dealers take over, making money without giving the publishers or the authors anything. It’s a vicious circle, of course, and then it does become a scam, as the publishers keep churning out expensive new editions to thwart the used book sellers and to create a revenue stream.

    I do think the answer is electronic publishing, though exactly how that will work remains to be worked out.

  • DonS

    Dr. Veith @ 11: Here’s an article on the subject, related to a 2010 9th Circuit court decision, for your consideration: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/09/19/Under-the-US-Supreme-Court-Software-is-like-beer-you-just-rent-it/UPI-15231284881400/

  • DonS

    Dr. Veith @ 11: Here’s an article on the subject, related to a 2010 9th Circuit court decision, for your consideration: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/09/19/Under-the-US-Supreme-Court-Software-is-like-beer-you-just-rent-it/UPI-15231284881400/

  • DonS

    And here is the article reporting that the Supreme Court declined certiorari, meaning that the case is good law at least in the 9th Circuit: http://www.scottandscottllp.com/main/Supreme_Court_Allows.aspx

  • DonS

    And here is the article reporting that the Supreme Court declined certiorari, meaning that the case is good law at least in the 9th Circuit: http://www.scottandscottllp.com/main/Supreme_Court_Allows.aspx

  • Jimmy Veith

    On a related topic, I would like to know why royalties for created works of art (books, art and music) are so low.

    Wasn’t the customary royalty rates established in an error when the music industry had to have big factories to produce vinyl records? How much does it cost now to mass produce c.d.’s, or digitize the music to be sold on the internet. With e-books, what to publishers actually do to create a product any more? I also assume that even the cost of producing a real book is less expensive now with the new technologies of mass production.

    Perhaps a good market based solution would be for creative artists around the world to join an international workers union, and demand higher royalties for books and records. Power to the people! Would conservatives participate in such an enterprise?

  • Jimmy Veith

    On a related topic, I would like to know why royalties for created works of art (books, art and music) are so low.

    Wasn’t the customary royalty rates established in an error when the music industry had to have big factories to produce vinyl records? How much does it cost now to mass produce c.d.’s, or digitize the music to be sold on the internet. With e-books, what to publishers actually do to create a product any more? I also assume that even the cost of producing a real book is less expensive now with the new technologies of mass production.

    Perhaps a good market based solution would be for creative artists around the world to join an international workers union, and demand higher royalties for books and records. Power to the people! Would conservatives participate in such an enterprise?

  • Grace

    Cincinnatus @4 “Sure, the court should rule in favor of the publishers–if they want to outlaw yard sales, thrift stores, and used car lots.

    Agreeing twice in one week, with YOU should alarm everyone on this blog. I don’t know what to say ;) I’m speechless!

  • Grace

    Cincinnatus @4 “Sure, the court should rule in favor of the publishers–if they want to outlaw yard sales, thrift stores, and used car lots.

    Agreeing twice in one week, with YOU should alarm everyone on this blog. I don’t know what to say ;) I’m speechless!

  • EricM

    Jimmy @14 – The costs of marketing and distributing real books is still high. Marketing does not go away for electronic works. Not to mention that the publisher/distributor still need to make a profit.

    In some cases artists are banding together and moving away from the established labels. This is happening in country music.

  • EricM

    Jimmy @14 – The costs of marketing and distributing real books is still high. Marketing does not go away for electronic works. Not to mention that the publisher/distributor still need to make a profit.

    In some cases artists are banding together and moving away from the established labels. This is happening in country music.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    OK, so buying a book from Wiley overseas and bringing it to the U.S. violates copyright exactly how? They are suing, then, because their business practices created this opportunity, I guess.

    (thanks to others who asked this basic question)

    I’m reminded of a very sobering thought about this; Bastiat commented that if goods do not cross borders, armies will.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    OK, so buying a book from Wiley overseas and bringing it to the U.S. violates copyright exactly how? They are suing, then, because their business practices created this opportunity, I guess.

    (thanks to others who asked this basic question)

    I’m reminded of a very sobering thought about this; Bastiat commented that if goods do not cross borders, armies will.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I loved my undergrad profs, who almost to a person said “Don’t bother buying the textbook. I only put one in because the rules say I had to do so.”

    I know textbook publishers don’t want to hear this but in many disciplines their books are a waste of money.

    I think e-publishing is great idea, but it will be a tough sell to get people to buy new editions. Who wants to spend money on an editing upgrade? I don’t. And currently, much of the textbook system is driven by constant revisions making used textbooks irrelevant or a challenge to use in class.

    I am also for laws being changed so that profs are no longer required to list a textbook. Because seriously, textbooks are practically useless in the fast pace biology schools. Professor’s notes and journal articles were far more useful and cheaper.

    @16 The trend with artists is across the genres.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I loved my undergrad profs, who almost to a person said “Don’t bother buying the textbook. I only put one in because the rules say I had to do so.”

    I know textbook publishers don’t want to hear this but in many disciplines their books are a waste of money.

    I think e-publishing is great idea, but it will be a tough sell to get people to buy new editions. Who wants to spend money on an editing upgrade? I don’t. And currently, much of the textbook system is driven by constant revisions making used textbooks irrelevant or a challenge to use in class.

    I am also for laws being changed so that profs are no longer required to list a textbook. Because seriously, textbooks are practically useless in the fast pace biology schools. Professor’s notes and journal articles were far more useful and cheaper.

    @16 The trend with artists is across the genres.

  • SKPeterson

    Many music acts actively release their products electronically at zero or low costs. Their model is partly a low cost volume, volume, volume purpose, but also to drive people to the live shows where they make more consistent revenue.

    As to the software analogy, what if I sell you my old software? I could simply sell you the license key along with it and then erase the software from my system. You are now the license holder and we’ve merely exchanged title as it were.

  • SKPeterson

    Many music acts actively release their products electronically at zero or low costs. Their model is partly a low cost volume, volume, volume purpose, but also to drive people to the live shows where they make more consistent revenue.

    As to the software analogy, what if I sell you my old software? I could simply sell you the license key along with it and then erase the software from my system. You are now the license holder and we’ve merely exchanged title as it were.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    “Writers get nothing when their works are re-sold in used bookstores or online, which has always struck me, being an author, as wrong, …”

    Which product, when resold by the original buyer, gives profits to the original producer? Clothes? Tools? Cars? Houses? I can’t think of a single example. Once it’s mine, any attempt to recoup some of that original cost is my business. If I manage to make a profit, that, too, is my business. Actually, that’s the essence of commerce.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    “Writers get nothing when their works are re-sold in used bookstores or online, which has always struck me, being an author, as wrong, …”

    Which product, when resold by the original buyer, gives profits to the original producer? Clothes? Tools? Cars? Houses? I can’t think of a single example. Once it’s mine, any attempt to recoup some of that original cost is my business. If I manage to make a profit, that, too, is my business. Actually, that’s the essence of commerce.

  • Cincinnatus

    What ChrisB said. If I decide to sell old books in a yard sale, am I supposed to calculate royalties for the publishers? Is the Salvation Army supposed to cut a check to the manufacturers of the used brand-name clothing it sells? What about convenience stores who buy candy bars in bulk from Costco? Do they owe something to Hershey’s when they resell the candy for a profit?

    Sorry, folks. This is one case in which the “right answer” is uncharacteristically obvious.

  • Cincinnatus

    What ChrisB said. If I decide to sell old books in a yard sale, am I supposed to calculate royalties for the publishers? Is the Salvation Army supposed to cut a check to the manufacturers of the used brand-name clothing it sells? What about convenience stores who buy candy bars in bulk from Costco? Do they owe something to Hershey’s when they resell the candy for a profit?

    Sorry, folks. This is one case in which the “right answer” is uncharacteristically obvious.

  • Jon

    The thing about digital publishing and usage rights is that it makes the data rights very much closer to pure intellectual property rights. The information is digital, it only exists as electrons in cyberspace, notas a product consisting of ink splots on a piece of paper.

    So, if you abuse your personal license to use the intellectual property of the author–zot–there it goes, you just lost your rights. Want to transfer that intellectual property to someone else? Sure, but pay up. Each time.

    Selling software is not as easy as erasing and selling the COA sticker, though lots of people do it. You have to check what is allowed in the original license between the licensor and the original purchaser. Lots of software companies won’t extend the license between themselves and a secondary user, unless you pay the license fee. Software companies are getting better mechanisms to enforce their licenses, and making it harder to defeat license abuse. To reinstall and reactivate software, you’d basically have to outright lie to the software company.

  • Jon

    The thing about digital publishing and usage rights is that it makes the data rights very much closer to pure intellectual property rights. The information is digital, it only exists as electrons in cyberspace, notas a product consisting of ink splots on a piece of paper.

    So, if you abuse your personal license to use the intellectual property of the author–zot–there it goes, you just lost your rights. Want to transfer that intellectual property to someone else? Sure, but pay up. Each time.

    Selling software is not as easy as erasing and selling the COA sticker, though lots of people do it. You have to check what is allowed in the original license between the licensor and the original purchaser. Lots of software companies won’t extend the license between themselves and a secondary user, unless you pay the license fee. Software companies are getting better mechanisms to enforce their licenses, and making it harder to defeat license abuse. To reinstall and reactivate software, you’d basically have to outright lie to the software company.

  • Jon

    And besides, copyright law literally refers to a protection against making additional copies of the material without a license from the holder of the work. So, you can’t infringe on a copyright of a work by reselling your original, licensed copy of the work.

    Somebody brought up contract law, though. A publisher could indeed impose a stricter license on his work. It’s just that most authors and publishers don’t do that. They choose, instead, to rely on pure copyright law alone to protect their interests.

    Software developers and publishers have a different scheme to license their product. If you bought the software secondhand, fact is you have an illegal additional copy of the software because you bought it without a license from the OEM. So you as the seconhand owner are in violation of copyright law, and technically the first seller is in breach of the license for selling the software to you.

  • Jon

    And besides, copyright law literally refers to a protection against making additional copies of the material without a license from the holder of the work. So, you can’t infringe on a copyright of a work by reselling your original, licensed copy of the work.

    Somebody brought up contract law, though. A publisher could indeed impose a stricter license on his work. It’s just that most authors and publishers don’t do that. They choose, instead, to rely on pure copyright law alone to protect their interests.

    Software developers and publishers have a different scheme to license their product. If you bought the software secondhand, fact is you have an illegal additional copy of the software because you bought it without a license from the OEM. So you as the seconhand owner are in violation of copyright law, and technically the first seller is in breach of the license for selling the software to you.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon (@6), are you serious? Have you learned nothing from the music-industry’s approach to the Internet?
    Besides, Apple hasn’t sold DRM-shackled tracks from iTunes for over three years now. Don’t you wonder why that is? Or why Amazon sells DRM-free MP3s? Hint: the answer contains the phrase “dismal failure”.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon (@6), are you serious? Have you learned nothing from the music-industry’s approach to the Internet?
    Besides, Apple hasn’t sold DRM-shackled tracks from iTunes for over three years now. Don’t you wonder why that is? Or why Amazon sells DRM-free MP3s? Hint: the answer contains the phrase “dismal failure”.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jimmy asked (@14):

    With e-books, what to publishers actually do to create a product any more?

    Ha. Fine, I’m not an uninterested commenter; I work for a publisher.

    But the physical publishing of a book only costs around 10% of the cost of bringing it to life. If you don’t think publishing houses add any value, you are more than free to try your hand at one of the many self-publishing venues out there. I see a lot of people getting rich from those; there’s always a handful on the bestseller lists. And, you know, because being an author also makes you a good editor, designer, and marketer.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jimmy asked (@14):

    With e-books, what to publishers actually do to create a product any more?

    Ha. Fine, I’m not an uninterested commenter; I work for a publisher.

    But the physical publishing of a book only costs around 10% of the cost of bringing it to life. If you don’t think publishing houses add any value, you are more than free to try your hand at one of the many self-publishing venues out there. I see a lot of people getting rich from those; there’s always a handful on the bestseller lists. And, you know, because being an author also makes you a good editor, designer, and marketer.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    As long as the government doesn’t meddle, I think that whatever royalties writers get are the going rate in the free market economy.

    Writers, like anyone else who has goods, services or a talent to sell, are free to shop around for a better deal, or even to pick a different line of business.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    As long as the government doesn’t meddle, I think that whatever royalties writers get are the going rate in the free market economy.

    Writers, like anyone else who has goods, services or a talent to sell, are free to shop around for a better deal, or even to pick a different line of business.

  • Andrew

    While at uni, we had a superb text written by one of the lecturers at the university i attended. it cost in the region of $300. The author got $15. I bought a legitimate version. The author suggested to my brother’s class that followed me a few years later that they get a photocopied version printed in south east asia. from memory it cost in the region of $50. if publishers squeeze too much out of the market and not enough is given to the author, there is probably less moral compunction in going to the black market.

  • Andrew

    While at uni, we had a superb text written by one of the lecturers at the university i attended. it cost in the region of $300. The author got $15. I bought a legitimate version. The author suggested to my brother’s class that followed me a few years later that they get a photocopied version printed in south east asia. from memory it cost in the region of $50. if publishers squeeze too much out of the market and not enough is given to the author, there is probably less moral compunction in going to the black market.

  • Andrew

    one of the things that bugs me is that standards are written by volunteers. no royalties paid. considerable expertise put into it. the committees debate over minor phrasing and punctuation issues.
    then after editing and typesetting it is onsold at considerable expense into the same community that the contributors came from.
    it’s a closed shop as the standards organisation is the one legally permitted to publish the standards we all work to, but they squeeze far more out of the industries than is seen to be reasonable, or just covering their costs and reasonable profit.

  • Andrew

    one of the things that bugs me is that standards are written by volunteers. no royalties paid. considerable expertise put into it. the committees debate over minor phrasing and punctuation issues.
    then after editing and typesetting it is onsold at considerable expense into the same community that the contributors came from.
    it’s a closed shop as the standards organisation is the one legally permitted to publish the standards we all work to, but they squeeze far more out of the industries than is seen to be reasonable, or just covering their costs and reasonable profit.


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