December 15, 2010
On December 13, 2010, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Costco v. Omega, a case involving the first-sale doctrine of copyright law. Under the first-sale doctrine, a person who purchases a copyrighted work can later sell that work to someone else without the permission of the copyright owner. The question raised in the Costco case was whether the first-sale doctrine applied to imported works that were manufactured abroad and had not previously been sold in the United States with the copyright owner’s permission.
In a per curiam decision, an equally divided Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit’s decision that the first-sale doctrine does not apply to imported goods that are manufactured abroad and have not already been sold in the United States with the permission of the copyright owner. Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
To discuss the case, we have Professor David Olson, who is a member of the faculty at Boston College Law School.