A Textbook Case of Copyright Infringement?

Andrew AlbaneseThree leading education publishers have brought a copyright and trademark infringement suit against a U.S.-based textbook reseller for allegedly importing and selling “pirated” foreign editions of popular textbooks in the U.S. market. Filed in Massachusetts federal court by Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson Education, the suit accuses a trio of textbook “arbitragers” – individually and collectively (under the name, Information Recyclers)— of selling ‘knock-off’ imported editions, bearing the publishers’ trademarks.

“The first thing that comes to mind when you hear about this case is the landmark case against another arbitrager, a Thai-born U.S. student Supap Kirtsaeng, who was importing and reselling cheaper, English-language foreign editions of Wiley textbooks made exclusively for sale abroad,” reports Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer.

In 2008, Wiley argued that Kirtsaeng was in violation of two provisions of the U.S. Copyright Act—one provision against “parallel importation,” and another against distributing unauthorized copies. Ultimately, in 2013, the Supreme Court held that  under the first sale doctrine, Kirtsaeng had the right to resell them.

“The publishers in this case are alleging that the copies at issue are not ‘legally made’ editions, but are cheaply made, illegal knockoff copies,” he explains to CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “Like a supposed ‘Gucci’ bag you might buy on Canal Street here in NY, the books this arbitrager is bringing are counterfeits, printed on cheap paper with bad bindings. Pirate editions, plain and simple, the publishers allege.”

Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.

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