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Garage Sales May Become Illegal

Rummage Sale

I know this may cause the heads of garage sale addicts, like my wife, to explode, but it is for real. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case on October 29th that could hurt garage sales, online auction sites, and even libraries in a big way.

This story started when a student from Thailand, Supap Kirtsaeng, went to Cornell University and found out that his textbooks cost a lot more in the U.S. than they did in his home country. He had his family buy the books back home and send them to him. When he was done with them he sold them on eBay and made off with $1.2 million.

The publisher of the books, Wiley, didn’t care for that so they sued Kirtsaeng. He countered with the first-sale doctrine, which states that the copyright holder only has rights to the first sale of an item. This has been part of U.S. law since 1908.

If they uphold the appellate court ruling, you would have to have permission from the copyright holder to sell anything you previously bought, but only if the item was made outside of the United States.

Yes, we live in a free country and what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours. But apparently not if it was made outside of the country. I took an inventory of everything I’m wearing today and the only thing I am wearing that was made in the U.S. was my New Era Minnesota Twins cap.

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