Posted by & filed under Intellectual Property, IT Governance.

What constitutes a "sale" in the digital marketplace?

Discussion: When you buy an e-book, a song from iTunes, or download a movie, what do you really “own?”  That is a question not even the U.S. Supreme Court has decisively answered.  Under the prevailing legal principle known as the “first sale doctrine,” if you want to resell your digital downloads, you must also sell your hard drive, ebook reader, or iPod.  Logical?  No, and ironically the very flexibility that makes digital technology so compelling – the ease of copying and sharing – may ultimately deprive consumers of some basic economic rights they have enjoyed for centuries.


Date: December 23, 2010


Questions for discussion:

  • Explain the “first sale doctrine” and how it applies to tangible copies of copyrighted material.
  • What copyright “loophole” emerged from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Omega, S.A.?
  • Is the “first sale doctrine” a realistic legal principle in the digital marketplace?

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