First Sale Doctrine

What Does First Sale Doctrine Mean?

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.


Techopedia Explains First Sale Doctrine

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.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…