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June 6th, 2014 11:52 am
The “First Sale” Doctrine: A Bad Idea for Digital Goods in the Internet Era
Posted by Print

The “First Sale” doctrine refers to an exception in copyright law that allows people to resell used physical products such as books, DVDs, CDs, etc.  While a century of Supreme Court precedent and federal statutes protect that exception for physical goods, some now want to extend it to digital goods even though the doctrine’s underlying logic does not rightfully apply.  More on this in next week’s Liberty Update, but for now, two good recent commentaries from Jim Martin over at the 60 Plus Association and George Landrith over at Frontiers for Freedom.

As Mr. Martin notes:

In the online space, where copies of intangible content are identical to originals, never decay, and are virtually costless to reproduce and transport, creation of a new first sale doctrine would destroy the primary market and discourage investment, innovation and creation.”

And as Mr. Landrith observes:

The ‘first sale’ exception makes sense for physical objects, but it does not make sense for intangible content.  Many have criticized the creative community for being slow to adjust to the modern digital marketplace.  But now some of those same voices are calling for government regulation which would effectively drag our modern modes for distributing books, movies and music back to a 1908 framework that only contemplated physical distribution.”

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