iPods, First Sale, President Obama and the Queen of England

by Brian Fletcher on April 3, 2009

For the patent types out there struggling with Bilski and KSR, consider that it could be worse.


President Obama reportedly gave an iPod, loaded with 40 show tunes, to England’s Queen Elizabeth II as a gift.  Did he violate the law when he did so?


You know your copyright laws are broken when there is no easy answer to this question.


Traditionally, it has been the job of the “first sale” doctrine to enable gift giving — that’s the provision of copyright law that entitles the owner of a CD, book, or other copyrighted work, to give it away (or resell it, for that matter), notwithstanding the copyright owner’s exclusive right of distribution.


In the digital era, however, first sale has been under siege, with copyright owners (and even the Copyright Office) arguing that it has no place in a world where “ownership” has been replaced by “licenses” and hand-to-hand exchanges have been replaced by computer-mediated exchanges that necessarily make copies.  But it’s precisely because first sale is central to everyday activities like giving an iPod to a friend, selling a used CD on eBay, or borrowing a DVD from a library, that the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others have been fighting for it in case after case.


So, how does President Obama fare in this?  It’s nearly impossible to figure out.  Continue reading the analysis and the entire post here, with thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Previous post:

Next post: