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Court: Illegal to Sell Copyright Works Made Outside U.S. Without Owner’s Permission

A U.S. appeals court recently ruled it is unlawful to import and sell copyrighted works created outside the United States without permission from the copyright owner.

In a 2-1 decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a man going to school at Cornell University violated the copyrights of publisher John Wiley and Sons when he sold less expensive editions of the company’s textbooks in the United States that were produced abroad.This ruling strengthens the rights of companies whose published works and products are created for cheap in other countries and then sold here or abroad for much less than they would by the original company. These New York intellectual property matters are prevalent throughout the city, where street peddlers try to sell everything from knockoff watches and designer bags to DVDs and movies that are still being shown in the theaters.

Copyright law is essential for any company that produces something because it allows recourse for those who unlawfully copy or rip-off the product. Intellectual property is the area of law that deals with a patent or copyright of a business’ products in order to protect them from outsiders who try to profit from the original company’s hard work.

In this case, according to the article, the ruling was based on a doctrine that establishes that the owner of a copy made lawfully under the Copyright Act can distribute the copy freely without the copyright owner authorizing it. But judges on the appellate court panel decided the rule in the Act only applies to products made inside this country.

To rule otherwise, the majority said, would defeat the purpose of a section of the law that stops a person from buying copyrighted works outside the country and bringing them in without the permission of the copyright’s owner.

But while other circuits, as well as five New York district judges have ruled in favor of copyright owners in other cases, they disagree about whether or not the first sale law applies to works produced abroad. It’s possible the U.S. Supreme Court will have to take the case to sort out the varying court opinions.

While this particular copyright law case deals with the production of books, this ruling will apply to any company that manufactures a product. Offshore production of U.S. goods has been a major issue in recent years, as many small businesses abroad have stolen the copyright owner’s design and product and sold it for less, even if the original company also sells its wares in those countries.

While competition will call for undercutting on costs to impress the consumer, it can’t be done unlawfully and to the detriment of the original company. These copyright and intellectual property matters must be handled by a Great Neck Business Lawyer who can work to protect a company from unfair competition and stolen ideas and products.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides intellectual property law counsel in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.

More Blog Entries:

Penguin Group V. American Buddha Shows the Need for Copyright Lawyers: June 21, 2011
Additional Resources:

Copyright owners win broader rights for works made abroad – court, by Terry Baynes, Reuter