Note: The Association of Research Libraries is also a founding member of the Owners’ Rights Initiative. A comment from ARL’s Prue Adler included below.
The Owners’ Rights Initiative (ORI)—a coalition of retailers, libraries, educators, Internet companies and associations working to protect ownership rights in the United States.
The coalition was formed to champion “first-sale rights,” or ownership rights, as the issue will be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Kirtsaeng vs. Wiley & Sons, Inc. on October 29, 2012. The Supreme Court’s decision could have adverse consequences for libraries and call into question libraries’ abilities to lend books and materials that were manufactured overseas.
More About ORI, Members List
ORI is committed to ensuring the right to resell genuine goods, regardless of where they were manufactured. The organization believes that this right is critical to commerce and will engage in advocacy, education and outreach on this important issue.
For over 100 years in the United States, if you bought something, you owned it and could resell it. Once the copyright owner makes the first sale, the right of ownership, and therefore the right to distribute, is transferred to the purchaser– a common law right referred to as the ‘first sale doctrine.’ Today, this fundamental ownership right is at issue in the Kirtsaeng vs. Wiley case, which will be argued before the Supreme Court on October 29, 2012.
The case centers on a graduate student, Supap Kirtsaeng, who bought authentic textbooks – published by John Wiley & Sons – through friends and family in Thailand and sold them online in the United States. Kirtsaeng was sued by the book publisher, who claimed that the right of first sale did not apply because the books were manufactured overseas, and he was therefore not authorized to sell the books.
“It is hard to conceive that Congress intended to incentivize manufacturers to move operations overseas, force American consumers to pay higher prices, make it hard for us to donate our own stuff to charity, and cripple the ability of libraries to lend books—without saying anything like that in the law,” said Marvin Ammori, a legal advisor to ORI and an Affiliate Scholar at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet & Society. He explained that if the high court rules in favor of Wiley’s interpretation, “it could be illegal for American consumers and businesses to sell, lend, or give away the things they own– but only if the company happened to have manufactured the goods overseas and put a little copyrighted logo or text on them. But being able to sell your own property is a fundamental liberty recognized for centuries and a pillar of a market economy. Where a product was manufactured should be irrelevant for this fundamental right.”
ORI members are concerned that loss of basic ownership rights through a misinterpretation of copyright law could have significant, adverse consequences for global commerce and could impact consumers, small and large businesses, retailers, libraries and more. The founding members of ORI are:
American Free Trade Association
American Library Association
Association of Research Libraries
Association of Service and Computer Dealers & the North American Association of Telecommunications Dealers (AscdiNatd)
Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA)
Goodwill Industries International, Inc.
Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)
Internet Commerce Coalition
International Imaging Technology Council (ITC)
Network Hardware Resale
Quality King Distributors, Inc.
United Network Equipment Dealers Association (UNEDA)
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL), an ORI member, further explained the impact of the case on students and educators. “University libraries collect and preserve materials of all kinds from all over the world to support teaching, learning, and research for our students, faculty and members of the public,” Prue Adler, associate executive director of ARL said. “The materials we own and collect are held in trust for the public and for future generations.”
Direct to Owners’ Rights Initiative Web Site