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What is the First Sale Doctrine

35. What is the “First Sale Doctrine”?

Section 109 of the Copyright Act provides a purchaser of a copyrighted item the ability to sell or otherwise dispose of the item without the permission of the copyright holder. This is known as the “first-sale doctrine”. It stands for the proposition that a copyright holder cannot control a copyrighted item after it has been sold or transferred.

•    Note: The purchase of copyrighted item only establishes rights in that item. It does not authorize an individual to copy or otherwise reproduce that copyrighted item.

•    Discussion: Why do you think the law allows initial purchasers of a copyrighted item the ability to sell or transfer that item? Is there an argument for limiting a purchaser’s authority? Is there an argument for allowing a purchaser to copy or reproduce the item?

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