THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO DISTRIBUTE & THE FIRST SALE DOCTRINE

The exclusive right of distribution under the Copyright Act enables the copyright holder to have the control of the first public distribution of their work. Unlike the right to control the “copying” of their copyrighted work, the right of distribution allows them to have an input in the way that the physical copies or phonorecords are dispersed. There is a limitation on the exclusive right of distribution that is known as the first sale doctrine. 17 U.S.C. Section 109 enunciates the first sale doctrine; this doctrine limits the copyright owner’s control over copies of the work to only their first sale or transfer. The First Sale Doctrine has begun to be reconsidered as the legal implications of digital music and the rise of illegal music posting websites and transferring music via electronic mail has become more rampant. This article provides basic information on the First Sale Doctrine under the United States copyright laws.

The following questions have been addressed in this article:

What is underlying purpose the first sale doctrine?
Does the first sale doctrine apply to imported copyrighted goods?
Would the distribution of digital music under the first sale doctrine prove to be a defense to potential infringement?

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