KIRSTAENG V WILEY, THE SUPREME COURT AND THE WORD “MAY”
In a unanimous decision authored by J. Kagan, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Kirstaeng v. Wiley not to award attorneys fees because the defendant’s position was “objectively reasonable” and remanded the case for further consideration.
The case of Kirstaeng v. Wiley hit the headlines in 2013 when the Supreme Court held that importation and sale in the United States of books bought from the copyright owner in Thailand was not an infringement of copyright, even though a notice in the books stated ‘This book is authorized for sale in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East and may not be exported out of these territories.”
Following this, Kirstaeng sought to recover his attorney fees under the provisions of 17 USC 505 which provides that a district court “may … award attorney fees to the prevailing party.” The district court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request on the ground that, since prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 it was unclear whether the first sale doctrine applied when the initial sale was outside the United States, the defendant’s position was “objectively reasonable” and that is such situations no award of attorney fees should be made.
Now, The Supreme Court, on June 16th, in a unanimous decision authored by Kagan J reversed this decision and remanded the case for further consideration.
For additional information, see the article in our Education Center