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September 30, 2005
In Praise of First Sale
William Patry, commenting on the news that some authors and book publishers are unhappy about sites like Amazon.com offering books for sale at different prices -- i.e., list price, sale price, used book price:
It is really no fun to write about copyright owners acting like Luddite pigs, and being in private practice it has a definite commercial downside; I would much rather praise Caesar. But, things are as they are, and I have always opted for honesty over craven brown-nosing and over self-imposed censorship. I hope my twins forgive me. ...
I buy the vast majority of my books through amazon.com and pay alot of attention to the choices they offer for the book I am interested in. Choice is bad, apparently. I should have to pay list price and I shouldn't be able to resell it (at least through amazon.com) without amazon.com sending a check to the publisher, who will of course pass 100% through to the author, at least that is what a literary agent is quoted in the article as advocating.
Sad, is the only polite word I can think of for authors and publishers' utter failure to embrace an extremely beneficial system. The first sale doctrine was judicially created by the Supreme Court pre-1909 Copyright Act in order to prevent publishers from misusing copyright to maintain list price. Some things truly never change.
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