(LIN) — Looking for a used TV? You’ve got options.
From Amazon, eBay and Craigslist to thrift stores and yard sales, a wide variety of used TVs can be found a range of prices.
Once you find the one you want, you can often haggle until you get the price you want, and then take it home. When you’re sick of it and want to upgrade, you can turn right around and re-sell the TV online or through an ad in the paper and make some quick cash.
Millions of these transactions are made daily, but many buyers and sellers alike don’t realize a couple of laws in place that govern the selling of goods. Also unbeknownst to today’s consumer is how quickly these marketplaces could change after one single court decision.
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing Kirtsaeng v. Wiley this month, which is focused around the Copyright Act. If the High Court decides to uphold the case, it could change the way second-hand goods are bought and sold in the United States.
Facts of the case In 1997, Supap Kirtsaeng came to the U.S. from Thailand. To help fund his education in the Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California, he told friends and family members in Thailand to buy copies of textbooks and ship them to the U.S., where he would then sell the books on eBay for a profit.
Eight of the textbooks Kirtsaeng sold were printed by John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Wiley sued Kirtsaeng in district court for copyright infringement under the Copyright Act, which makes it illegal to import a work “without the authority of the owner.”
Kirtsaeng argued another part of the Copyright Act that states the owner of a work “lawfully made under this title” can sell the copy without the copyright owner’s permission.
Both the district court and U.S. Court of Appeals sided with Wiley, claiming that works made outside the U.S. do not apply to Kirtsaeng’s argument, therefore making it illegal to re-sell anything made on foreign soil without the authority of the work’s owner.
Why it matters to you Should the Supreme Court uphold the lower court’s ruling, manufacturers could force people to obtain permission from them before reselling or even donating items made overseas.
This could change the dramatically way marketplaces operate that sell second-hand goods, making the sellers jump through many hoops before doing business. If this process becomes too burdensome or costly, it isn’t hard to foresee some websites like Craigslist or Amazon even existing anymore.
EBay is certainly watching this case very closely. They
released a statement stressing the fact that the textbooks in Kirtsaeng’s case were bought legally, not pirated or stolen.
Even if you don’t shop online, items made on foreign soil are constantly bought and sold at yard sales, street vendors and thrift stores. Even if you want to sell that old clunker in the driveway, if it isn’t American-made, or if it has any foreign parts in it, you might be asking permission first.
Needless to say, if this case is upheld, your used TV options will become quite limited in the future.
This case is slated for argument on Oct. 29.
On the Docket is a feature written by Jessica O. Swink and published when the U.S. Supreme Court is in session. Get the latest political news at
onPolitix.com, and join in the conversation on
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