Letter to the Editor: American publishers can’t stop the reselling of textbooks


In his opinion piece, “Textbook prices: an alternate arrangement” (Jan. 28), Justin Jaynes wonders why textbook publishers allow

students to resell their textbooks.

The reason is that under

United States copyright law, once a textbook has been sold, the

copyright owner can no longer control its further distribution.

This “first sale” doctrine is codified in Section 109 of the

Copyright Act.

British copyright law has a similar provision. It controls the

first issuance of a copy, but not any “subsequent distribution,

sale, hiring or loan of those copies.”

There are special rules that govern imported copyrighted works that might restrict their resale, however.

Lee Hollaar


School of Computing