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The first sale doctrine is a legal concept in which a product purchase provides the original consumer of copyrighted material with distribution rights - meaning the right to sell, copy or distribute the product. If reproduced, however, the copies are not be considered an infringement of the copyright owner’s rights.
The first sale doctrine was originally issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1908. Since this originally applied to protected physical materials, first sale doctrine is not as pertinent to copyrighted digital media. Still, the Copyright Act of 1976 allows a consumer to sell or lend copyrighted goods upon purchase without permission from the copyright holder. As a way around this, modern digital copyright owners negate the first sale doctrine by requiring their product consumers to enter into licenses, thus providing consumers with mere renters’ rights, as opposed to owners’ rights. Current copyright laws that pertain to digital materials are gradually rendering the first sale doctrine obsolete.