I have a friend who recently started selling international edition textbooks after he used them and although some professors said it was illegal who showed some laws that apply to this that make it legal.
Someone who is familiar with law might bw able to translate it for you. here it it:
- Yes. Some publishers will label these textbooks with phrases such as “Not for sale within the USA” or after a list of countries the book is available for distribution in, “Distribution outside these areas is unauthorized.” This doesn’t mean that it’s illegal to buy these books. Publishers would prefer if students in North America bought textbooks produced specifically for the North American market. These “warnings” are a way that publishers identify the books that were published specifically for foreign markets.
In most cases, the textbooks offered have been purchased by the bookseller from another bookseller in the country of origin. Because the textbooks are not being sold by the original purchaser, they technically become “used” items and these can be freely sold worldwide. As the bookseller shipping you the book was not supplied directly by the publisher, no laws (copyright or trademark etc.) are broken
- First Sale Doctrine deals with the exhaustion of intellectual property rights. For a book, the rights are typically the protections under copyright law and trademark law. The book you purchased is a “grey market” book – it is a legal, authorized copy of the book, but distributed through “unauthorized” channels. Since it is a legal copy, there are no copyright issues; the rights under copyright law are “exhausted” once the copy is sold.
The only issue left is one of trademark. In the case of a grey market importer, the trademark holder could possibly pursue a cause of action for misappropriation against the importer – but it is not a criminal issue, it is not illegal to purchase a grey market product (all of the risk for importing and selling grey market products are on the distributors trying to bypass the authorized channels).
Basically, as long as YOU don’t purport to be an authorized dealer of the book, you can freely sell the book – baiscally, again, once the book is in the hands of a consumer, the trademark protections are “exhausted” and the trademark holder cannot further control the distribution of THAT particular copy of the book unless there is some other factor in play, such as you pretending to be an authorized distributor.
Now, if this had been a “black market” import – that is, if the book you purchased was an unauthorized COPY of the book (as opposed to merely being a legal copy distributed through unauthorized channels) – THEN the first sale doctrine would not protect you, as any sale of an unauthorized copy of a copyrighted product is copyright infringement, and the copyright owner could come after you. In this case, the copyright holder’s rights are NOT exhausted