The Future of the First Sale Doctrine
A May 23rd workshop on the future of the first sale doctrine in copyright law—the principle that underpins lending and rental models for copyrighted media, such as books and DVDs. The workshop brought together thirty-five publishers, librarians, and researchers to discuss the current landscape and legal challenges to expanding access to digital books.
Libraries, used book stores, and businesses like Netflix are made possible by the ‘first sale doctrine’ in copyright law, which permits the lending and renting of physical media (like books and DVDs) after purchase. In the digital world, the status of the first sale doctrine is unclear: sale is increasingly supplanted by licensing, which generally restricts rights of lending or resale. In May 2013, The American Assembly partnered with the Samuelson Clinic at UC Berkeley Law on a one-day workshop to discuss the future of first sale and the institutions that depend on it—bringing together some 35 librarians, publishers, and legal scholars.