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Student Charged For Re-selling Textbooks

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the information-doesn't-want-to-cross-the-border dept.

Education 489

AstroPhilosopher writes "The U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal from a Thai student who was fined $600,000 for re-selling textbooks. Trying to make ends meet, the student had family members in Thailand mail him textbooks that were made and purchased abroad, which he then resold in the U.S. It's a method many retailers practice every day. 'Discount sellers like Costco and Target and Internet giants eBay and Amazon help form an estimated $63 billion annual market for goods that are purchased abroad, then imported and resold without the permission of the manufacturer. The U.S.-based sellers, and consumers, benefit from the common practice of manufacturers to price items more cheaply abroad than in the United States. This phenomenon is sometimes called a parallel market or grey market.'"

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I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702727)

Discount sellers like Costco and Target and Internet giants eBay and Amazon help form an estimated $63 billion annual market for goods that are purchased abroad, then imported and resold without the permission of the manufacturer.

As someone who once foolishly bought a robotics book used on Amazon ($8) that was supposed to be the real thing ($80) and instead received an Indian release version, I must say that I do not see the parallels here. First off, the Costco case [slashdot.org] applied to goods made inside the US -- not goods made outside the US like this case. These are two mutually exclusive sets of products so it's quite different in that the big retailers re-import goods made here. I find this to be a painfully important discrepancy since, especially in this case, books and other copyrighted material have very strict distribution channels. I'm not saying its right. I'm not saying it's how things should be. I'm just telling you it's how they are. And these publishers enter contracts with affiliates in other nations. A book's value is mostly determined by its content and when you're marking that down in a foreign country through a foreign distributor, it's massively different than marking down a BMW in Mexico or a wristwatch in Switzerland. The watch and car are tangible goods that may have some intrinsic value and copyright but more importantly provide a functionality. This is not the case with the textbook. I would guess in the case of college textbooks, this guy was breaking many more laws than in the case of the watch -- especially given the United States' ridiculous laws governing copyright. In the case of my purchased textbooks, the quality of the book was horrid. A paperback binding that fell apart almost instantly and seemed to be held together with potato paste with graphs I could not read since the ink was so shoddy compared to glossy thick hardcover American release. Still, the words were the same words ... and I passed the course.

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702785)

I agree with eldavojohn - send him to Gitmo!

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (3, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702877)

I don't give a shit if the Megacorp doesn't like that I purchased a cheap paperback Indian copy instead of the overpriced, glossybacked American copy. Sucks to be them. It's not my responsibility to bendover and kiss its ass..... it is not my girlfriend. I have every right as a free citizen (not a megacorp slave) to buy the cheapest copy I can find. It's called free trade.

I Give Up (3, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703069)

I don't give a shit if the Megacorp doesn't like that I purchased a cheap paperback Indian copy instead of the overpriced, glossybacked American copy. Sucks to be them. It's not my responsibility to bendover and kiss its ass..... it is not my girlfriend. I have every right as a free citizen (not a megacorp slave) to buy the cheapest copy I can find. It's called free trade.

I like how mod my comments are modded as Troll when I'm trying to explain why the situation is what it is yet your profanity laden brash response without any understanding of the concept is moderated as "Insightful."

So this is my problem with Slashdot and why I come back here only to be constantly reminded to stay away and let the people circle jerk with blinders on. I'll let someone else waist their time explaining how the world works to you folk, you clearly never learned to appreciate someone merely relaying the other side of the issue or another viewpoint to you.

Good luck upsetting the publishing business with your brilliant views! Burst forth, you need only say these words and hundreds of years of international copyright law will crumble!

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (5, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703071)

I have every right as a free citizen (not a megacorp slave) to buy the cheapest copy I can find. It's called free trade.

It's only called free trade if it benefits the Megacorp. If it benefits a mere mortal, it's called infringement. What it actually infringes isn't quite clear, since you aren't actually copying anything, but that's unimportant. What's important is that the Megacorp paid good money to have the laws written and interpreted for its favour.

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (0)

matrim99 (123693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703141)

So you are arguing that, as a free citizen, it is OK for you to purchased illegal copies of a book? Or are you arguing that no written material should be able to have copyright protections?

Also, what does the size of the publishing company have to do with publishing/copying rights?

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (5, Insightful)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703189)

So you are arguing that, as a free citizen, it is OK for you to purchased illegal copies of a book? Or are you arguing that no written material should be able to have copyright protections?

Also, what does the size of the publishing company have to do with publishing/copying rights?

Is it his responsibility to know that it is illegal? And more to the point, by which basis are they illegal? I buy Book A from the campus bookstore, and I buy Book B from an overseas distributor for a fraction of the cost. A is identical to B. I understand that it is illegal, but purchasing books in this way is in no way unethical and to my (admittedly unlawyer-like mind) is far more important.

WTF? (5, Insightful)

fuzznutz (789413) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703267)

These are copies of a book *LEGALLY* published and sold by the Asian subsidiaries of US publishing houses. How the f*ck are they illegal? The question is whether or not copyright law can restrict if they can be imported and resold.

Oops, sorry. I fed the troll, didn't I?

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (2)

Eivind Eklund (5161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703305)

I'm not the OP, and I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. I would argue that first sale should cover things that are "licensed only for region X" to also be used in region Y; that a sale of an information good to the general public include a license that can be re-sold, and that region restrictions cannot apply.

As it is, I believe that isn't generally applied; copyright licenses are granted by area, and importing into a different area for re-sale is not necessarily legal. I'm not sure if importing into a region for personal use is always considered OK - I hope it in general is, because I brought my collection of DVDs and CDs with me when I relocated to the US, and would hate to have them deemed contraband.

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703191)

When they say the mega-corps do the same thing... I am wondering if they really mean, these corps had filled out the right paperwork to explain what they are doing and paying taxes and tariff fees.

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (2)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703233)

I don't give a shit if the Megacorp doesn't like that I purchased a cheap paperback Indian copy instead of the overpriced, glossybacked American copy. Sucks to be them. It's not my responsibility to bendover and kiss its ass..... it is not my girlfriend. I have every right as a free citizen (not a megacorp slave) to buy the cheapest copy I can find. It's called free trade.

I don't believe this case is about your ability to purchase cheap indian paperback books. This case is about a Thai student's ability to import cheap indian paperback books and resell them in the US using E-bay.

Nothing prevents you from traveling to India, purchasing the books, and bringing them back and declaring them through customs. The small amount of money you probably spent wouldn't amount to any import duties since they are technically for your personal use.

I think the line that was crossed was that the books were obviously purchased in India with the intention of selling them in the US. I do think that $600,000 for 8 textbooks is beyond excessive.

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (4, Insightful)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703287)

Damn right. These huge corporations are able to go wherever is most financially beneficial to their interests when they're scoping out labor and raw materials, but they want to try and region-lock the final product so that we can't do exactly the same fucking thing and get around their arbitrarily inflated prices? Give me a fucking break...

If these assholes can go to India or China to have these books made for 3 fucking cents a piece, I should be able to go buy one there for a nickle if I choose to do so. If they want to region-lock the books, then they need to be forced to region-lock the fucking labor so that we're not being bent over due to the economic disparity between the first world and the third world.

The fact that it's not limited to tangible goods but services (i.e., call centers) these days is even more ridiculous. All of these companies claim they must do this to remain "competitive" but the cost savings are never passed along to the consumer. Books are just as expensive today as they ever were, if not more so. Even eBooks and eTextbooks cost a ridiculous amount when you take into account the fact that there is almost no overhead after the book itself is completed, and since they can't entirely stop students from sharing eTextbooks, well, they just build it in to your fucking tuition now. Remember when you could go to the library and borrow an expensive textbook you couldn't afford as you needed it and 'get by'? No more of that communist bullshit allowed, am I right? You filthy socialists get back in the fields and make room for the rich kids who can properly afford their education...

Just another 20th century institution trying to shove a 20th century business model into a 21st century market. I won't shed a fucking tear for these assholes when they're belly up, because the book publishers have been ripping off authors for far, far longer than the RIAA and MPAA have been, and there ain't no sympathy here for those fuckwads either, believe me. I just wish more schools would tell these publishers to go pound sand and move to open source textbooks, but unfortunately, this kind of thing is just as politically motivated (and corruptible) as anything else these days. Too much money involved, too many palms being greased...same old song and fucking dance...

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702907)

I bought the (official) International Students Edition of a well-known electronics book (in the UK, delivered from America). The paper is a bit rougher and thinner and the two-tone graphics were greyscale, and the binding was a bit flimsier, but everything was the same. If anything, it was more useful as it was lighter than the alternative solid slab of glossy paper, and smelled much nicer! All in all, it cost me about a third of the cost of the book in the UK, including shipping from the States. I wasn't about to pay three times the price so I can have unecessary colour in my textbook!

What did interest me was a bit white box on the cover saying "this book is for sale only in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar". Seems the DVD-style region codes extend to books as well. Whatever happened to the global market?

On the other hand, my cunningly acquired early edition of a maths textbook were printed in the days when the answer to a log question started with "from your tables". But it still had the right answers and all the material I needed. A set of Stroud for under £10 is worth it even just for the doorstop capability.

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703099)

>>>Whatever happened to the global market?

Good question. About a decade ago I bought several 12-hour S-VHS tapes from england. For whatever reason JVC refused to sell any tape longer than 9 hours on U.S. shores, perhaps to force customers to buy more of them.

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703179)

The one thing you do have to watch out for -- the international editions don't need USCS (aka English) units, since pretty much the rest of the world is on SI (for those elsewhere, most US universities teach engineering courses with both units, since until we get our act together nationally, a practicing engineer might find themselves working with either or both). Of course, they don't normally edit the text to remove all references to USCS, as that would be an added and pointless cost, but your Thermodynamics textbook with both SI and USCS steam tables in the back? You can save a few pages that nobody in the target market will ever use...

I bought a lot of international-edition texts in college, but not that one, and only discovered the difference when the professor was asking why a number of students had done a bunch of unit conversion and interpolation into the SI tables on homework problems in USCS units, which he had specifically designed to come out as round numbers to avoid interpolation in the USCS tables. (He thought it was some sort of study group with a really dumb leader.) Turns out they didn't even realize there were supposed to be USCS tables, because they had the international-edition with only SI.

Being an alright guy who either had an unusually strong grasp of fair use, or just didn't give a shit about copyright, he then photocopied the USCS steam tables from a US edition of the text, and handed them out to the whole class.

Give the kid a break (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702915)

Give the kid a break. $300,000 is lesson enough.

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702983)

A book's value is mostly determined by its content

A book's value is determined by what people are willing to pay.

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703017)

A book is a tangible product too. He's not selling licenses or illegal copies, is he? It should only take two words to defend this behavior: First sale. If it takes more than that, then there is something wrong, and selling what you bought legally isn't it.

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (3, Insightful)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703051)

Well, typically for electronics at least, the exporter sells the goods at a huge discount, because the distributor on the other end is supposed to provide all of the manuals, support, warranty service, etc. Now you buy one of those "bare" pieces of electronics, bring it to the US, and sell it here to some unsuspecting slob. He then tries to get warranty service and finds out he's been ripped off.

That should be a crime.

But a book? It's nothing but mashed up paper. Presumably it was bought legally over there, and from there on it's private property. First sale, anyone?

What am I missing?

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703083)

I remember a case from years ago regarding perfume or something like that made in the US and exported to France, then re-imported. In court it was found legal. Maybe that one didn't go all the way to the supreme court. It's not my memory that's bad, it's my filing system. and recall.

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703091)

Damn, I'm going to have to RTFA. Was it a counterfeit? If so, the Thai guy was in the wrong. If not, he owned it and should be able to sell it, burn it, give it away, do any damned thing he wanted with it, any damed where he wanted to. This "only for sale in country X" bullshit pisses me off no end. Aren't we supposed to be the home of the free? WTF? I can't use my own property as I see fit?

Re:I Don't See the Parallelism Here ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703335)

I RTFA, and from what I can tell, he bought the textbook from the overseas division of the manufacturer for price A, sold them on Ebay in the US for price B, when the US division of the company was selling the textbooks for price C, where A B C.

Quite frankly I'm not sure how this case has anything to do with copyright. Customs and import/export laws, yes, but not copyright.

It's quite possible that I missed something in the article or the article was very poorly written - in other words, very much like Slashdot summaries.

The advance of IP (2, Insightful)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702731)

When will they stop? Ever?

Re:The advance of IP (3, Interesting)

John Holmes (2619159) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702807)

When will we do something about it?

Re:The advance of IP (1)

Merk42 (1906718) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702901)

When we pool our money together to buy politicians

Re:The advance of IP (3, Insightful)

djl4570 (801529) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702945)

You cannot buy a politician. You can only rent them.

Re:The advance of IP (1)

John Holmes (2619159) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703003)

Or shoot them.

Re:The advance of IP (4, Interesting)

Tore S B (711705) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703241)

Or you could, you know, work to attain a political system where money is less of a requirement for electability. There are many ways to make significant inroads. Banning political television advertisement would be one such thing.

Re:The advance of IP (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703283)

And I want a pony.

Re:The advance of IP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703243)

What if we pay well in advance?

Wait, never mind. That assumes an honest politician.

Re:The advance of IP (4, Funny)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702989)

When we pool our money together to buy politicians

Hence deregulation to transfer the savings of the American people away from them, inequitable free trade to eliminate jobs and suppress wages, and the levying of private taxes by Big Carbon and "high finance"/"the speculators" [thinkprogress.org] in order to ensure that the many have ever less money to pool together.

Re:The advance of IP (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702913)

Then the voters care, and they don't care now.

Re:The advance of IP (1)

dryriver (1010635) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702921)

--- When will they stop? Ever? --- They won't. Until someone with some guts actually stands up and stops them.

Re:The advance of IP (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703053)

Until someone with some guts actually stands up and stops them.

I initially read that as "Until someone with some guns actually stands up and stops them." Ultimately, I think it's going to come down to that.

Silly. (3, Informative)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702749)

When I was doing my MBA, I was able to find "international versions" of textbooks on Ebay or the like. They were identical to the domestic versions but were not hardcover, in some cases printed on cheap paper - those kinds of differences. Nice way to save yourself 50% or so.

I'm not sure why publishers foist the high-grade materials on everyone especially at the college level where the book will never be used again - that is, unless it's meant to be fit for resale.

Uh, Have You Heard of Distribution Channels? (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702805)

Well, as an MBA you might want to brush up on international trade laws like NAFTA and understand that manufacturers and especially publishers greatly reduce the price of their materials to target third world markets and to provide people the ability purchase the same books we do. You do understand that there are distribution channels and contracts that prevent someone in, say New Delhi, from noticing that their Addison Wesley book on Modern Evolution sells exceptionally well in the states so they are just going to set up an online store, right? I mean, you have to acknowledge that the publishers are asking different rates from Americans versus Mexicans on their books because -- let's face it -- the standard of living is different. The fact that the American publisher chooses hardcover over softcover is purely just internal marketing in the United States, not an attempt to:

foist the high-grade materials on everyone especially at the college level where the book will never be used again - that is, unless it's meant to be fit for resale.

I'm no MBA but this is pretty clear to even me.

Re:Uh, Have You Heard of Distribution Channels? (1)

ebs16 (1069862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702881)

They should consider lowering their prices to target their first works markets. I shouldn't need to devote a giant chunk of my student loans to buy a book I'll use for 6 months or forced to buy a web key for a textbook I get second hand.

As for the thick paper and hard covers of US textbooks: I suspect is has to do with making consumers feel like they're getting something tangible for their dollars.

Re:Uh, Have You Heard of Distribution Channels? (3, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702891)

the contracts are done with the printing houses - not with the people who actually buy the books and bring them to their homes. why should they be barred from selling their physical goods to another country?

Re:Uh, Have You Heard of Distribution Channels? (1)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702927)

The book was being sold within the United States. I didn't import it. I simply bought a secondhand book.

Re:Uh, Have You Heard of Distribution Channels? (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702953)

I don't give a shit about a megacorps' protective barriers to free trade among other human beings. Next thing it will want to erect barriers between every state, so I can't even sell my textbook across the line. BS on that.

Re:Uh, Have You Heard of Distribution Channels? (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703275)

Next thing it will want to erect barriers between every state, so I can't even sell my textbook across the line. BS on that.

Well luckily we have an interstate commerce clause written in the US Constitution.

Re:Uh, Have You Heard of Distribution Channels? (4, Interesting)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703095)

there are distribution channels and contracts that prevent someone in, say New Delhi, from noticing that their Addison Wesley book on Modern Evolution sells exceptionally well in the states so they are just going to set up an online store, right?

Why would this be relevant to anyone who isn't party to those contracts? The first reseller in New Dehli would be bound by that contract, but why their customer or that person's American customer?

Is this going to turn into another Blizzard EULA situation where they argue ownership of a book doesn't change hands when someone buys^H^H^H^H enters into a reading agreement?

Re:Uh, Have You Heard of Distribution Channels? (5, Insightful)

secret_squirrel_99 (530958) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703239)

there are distribution channels and contracts that prevent someone in

This isn't a contractual issue. This is a copyright issue. No one is claiming breach of contract. Furthermore, the defendant in this case never entered into any sort of contract with the publisher. He purchased books on the open market and resold them on the open market. The plaintiffs are claiming copyright infringement. This should be a clear cut example of the first sale doctrine, and should have never gotten beyond a district court.

Re:Silly. (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702853)

I did the same for my BT. Once in a while, the international version would have the page numbers slightly off or somesuch, but nothing major. I never noticed a quality difference between them and the US versions my classmates had.

You have an excellent point about the high-grade materials for a book with minor re-useability. Of the 30 or so books I had for college, I only kept 4 of them - none of which were intended to be textbooks.

Re:Silly. (1)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702955)

I noticed that as well - the page numbers were not always the same because the size of paper was slightly different.

The thing you have to be careful of is that you buy the same version. I needed a Version 6 one time and bought Version 5 from two years prior, thinking the differences would be minor, but it was a completely different book.

Re:Silly. (5, Informative)

jandrese (485) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703077)

Often times the differences between versions is that the questions at the end of the chapter will just be reordered and maybe a couple of minor tweaks here and there in the text. The versioning is really just a racket to try to shut down the used book market. I've had teachers that support multiple versions of a book by simply handing out problems like so:

Questions 2, 5, 8, 11, and 19 for version 5 owners, 5, 8, 9, 13, and 14 for version 6 owners. Since the rest of the content was the same this was basically no extra work on their part, since they had to go through and pick the new questions when the new version came out anyway, so they just picked the same ones as the previous year's. The textbook industry is such a racket.

So sending all that weight (1)

zugedneb (601299) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702781)

and still make mony How the hell can that be???

it's also called price discrimination.. (5, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702789)

..in which you decide how much the product costs not based on how much the product costs to make, but on how much money the potential buyer has. parallel or gray market is just a term the content holders would like to use, since it doesn't make them look like asshats. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_discrimination [wikipedia.org]

it's bullshit, of course. too bad for the publishers that books don't come with drm chips.

(I'm assuming that in this case the books were original - as in printed with copyright holders permission).

Re:it's also called price discrimination.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702893)

I'd like to know why (for example) this Cisco book I have here, Route FLG 642-902, has a price of US$ 70, CAN$ 84, and cost me € 65 (ex. VAT), which is roughly US$ 85.
I'm sure there are many other areas which foreigners (particularly Canadians) are pissed off at the difference we pay compared to the American pricing.

Allow Me to Rephrase the Problem (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702937)

Let's say Addison Wesley publishes a text book on Modern Evolution and it runs you a steep $90 here in the United States. Unsurprisingly, as the gatekeepers of that copyright, some of us actually shell that out. Well, universities in India are going to want access to this same material but there's a problem and I think you know what it is. That much money means a lot more in India than it does in the United States. So we have publishers wanting to sell textbooks in India to college students but the most anybody can really afford is $9. What's worse, if they don't release a version at that price, they're just going to bootleg it anyway. So the solution is to engage in, as you put it, "price discrimination" or as I might call it distribution values based on localized income since they want to make these materials available but they want to also make a profit in first world countries.

If you want to turn the screws on the publishers and say international trade laws are all bullshit and the books worth what it's worth and you're only paying $9 for the Indian version, I assure you they'll just sell it at $90 everywhere in the world and try to deal with the bootlegging in a much less understanding way than they are right now.

I see you replied to my post in another question about why the end consumer shouldn't be able to resell to another country. In cases of one or two books, I don't think anybody really gives a damn, it's when you're putting yourself through college on a publishers dime that they start to get upset and bring up international trade laws against you. I'm pretty sure with how copyright law works in the states and even abroad by distribution channels that this kid is going to be screwed pretty hard.

it's bullshit, of course. too bad for the publishers that books don't come with drm chips.

No, it's too bad for the publishers that they are trying to sell books cheaper inside poorer countries.

Re:Allow Me to Rephrase the Problem (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703023)

Wow you're really quite the shill. You work for these people? A few years ago the Textbook as.... I mean, Publishers tried to make selling used books to students illegal. I'm curious to see how far backwards you can bend to justify that as being "fine and dandy" marketing.

Here's a thought: Maybe the textbook publishers should offer TWO copies of their books, just like fiction publishers do: One that is hardcover. And one that is paperbook, with lower-quality paper/binding, but costs 1/3rd to 1/4th as much. (Then we'd not need to import that paperback from India because it would be on U.S. shelves.)

Re:Allow Me to Rephrase the Problem (-1, Troll)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703121)

Wow you're really quite the shill. You work for these people? A few years ago the Textbook as.... I mean, Publishers tried to make selling used books to students illegal. I'm curious to see how far backwards you can bend to justify that as being "fine and dandy" marketing.

So, this is called a strawman argument where I postulate that publishers are faced with a conundrum in trying to get their works out to third world countries and you open up with making me look like someone who says that resale of textbooks should not be allowed. Well done, I love the quality of discourse and discussion on this site!

Here's a thought: Maybe the textbook publishers should offer TWO copies of their books, just like fiction publishers do: One that is hardcover. And one that is paperbook, with lower-quality paper/binding, but costs 1/3rd to 1/4th as much. (Then we'd not need to import that paperback from India because it would be on U.S. shelves.)

You really failed to even read or comprehend the issue here. The insanity of publishers pricing in the United States is such that 1/3 or 1/4 the cost is nowhere near enough to market it in India! Furthermore, the book's value is in the words. The binding and quality is basically moot, just ask the people who are embracing ebooks at more cost than dead tree books. Why do you (continually) fail to engage me in any meaningful way on this discussion?

Now, carry on with your ad hominem attacks about how I'm a shill ...

Re:Allow Me to Rephrase the Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703331)

Leave this site, we are tired the of your shilling, and bending of facts. You yourself are guilty of many strawman arguments on this very page.

We understand why publishers price lower in other regions, but we don't understand how their contracts with distributers over there have any effect on anyone else. We don't want you, and you seem to hate it here so leave

Re:Allow Me to Rephrase the Problem (1)

MitchDev (2526834) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703087)

It proves what a bunch scummy dirtbags the publishers are. If they can make a profit selling the book for 10% of what they charge in the US, then they are robbing the citizens of the US...

Re:Allow Me to Rephrase the Problem (1)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703199)

It proves what a bunch scummy dirtbags the publishers are. If they can make a profit selling the book for 10% of what they charge in the US, then they are robbing the citizens of the US...

More like we're subsidizing the cheap prices elsewhere in the world. Would it be better if the cost was $45 in both India and the US? Nope, that wouldn't work either.

Re:Allow Me to Rephrase the Problem (1)

rmandevi (2168940) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703173)

I'm definitely missing something here. I legally buy a copy of a book, in India, for $9. I bought a copy, and have rights to the physical copy. I don't have the copyright, so I can't copy it, but I have rights to the physical book. I can read it, share it with my friends, prop up a table leg, rip the pages out and paper my room or the bottom of my parrot cage with it. I really don't see how copyright law applies here. I could see how international trade agreements apply here. What are the relevant laws?

Re:it's also called price discrimination.. (1)

MitchDev (2526834) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703065)

".in which you decide how much the product costs not based on how much the product costs to make, but on how much money the potential buyer has." I prefer the term "Price Gouging" or "Economic Rape" for this "charge all you can get away with" approach...

Re:it's also called price discrimination.. (2)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703149)

I am all for price discrimination; I just do not support the use of legalized force to enforce it! If you can make and sell the same product cheaper overseas, or to people with different genes, or whatever, more power to you. But if I buy your product, then I own your product, which gives me the right to sell your product under terms agreeable to me. To assert otherwise is to assert that I am your slave. Either I own myself and my property rights, or you do, and one of these scenarios is slavery.

Re:it's also called price discrimination.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703315)

..in which you decide how much the product costs not based on how much the product costs to make, but on how much money the potential buyer has.

It's not how much money the potential buyer has, it is how much they are willing to pay, AND their ability to negotiate.

For example, in the US, large insurance companies pay less per medical procedure than an individual.

Some people are willing to pay 20 cents per text message. I'm not one of them (even though I make a good salary), so I don't send text messages.

I'm surprised this has never come up before! (2)

Golgafrinchan (777313) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702811)

Grad students studying in the US have been buying & selling "International Edition" textbooks for ages. When I studied in a masters program some years ago, a majority of Chinese students used International Edition books that they had presumably purchased from another international student within the US who no longer needed the book anymore. These books were generally of lower quality than the regular edition US textbooks (i.e., soft cover, sometimes black and white instead of color, etc.), but the words & graphs were all the same, and for a huge discount you couldn't go wrong. After seeing so many of my classmates using these international editions, I began purchasing them myself (and selling them when I finished the course).

It never occurred to me that selling these could possibly be grounds for a major fine. To me, this is just as bad an idea as region coding on DVD's or disallowing Americans from purchasing pharmaceuticals abroad.

College now days is more about profit now days (4, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702821)

That is why text book get updated so much also some professors get a cut of the book costs for the books they author so some of them rip out pages to force students to buy a new book for the class.

Also other ways to make profit is the filler and high number of gen eds that at some College push out what used to be 4 years to 5 years.

High cost dorm room that cost more then renting on your own to live a with a room mate and have shared bathroom with a full floor also have to go off campus during brakes.

High cost meal plans that have hidden fees and other stuff that can force people to buy $100's in caddy as the funds are on use it or lose it cash cards that time out.

Re:College now days is more about profit now days (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702865)

Normally I'm not a grammar Nazi, and I'm sure someone could find some fault in this post too. That said, based on your writing ability, it's not easy to accept your advice on the value of a college education.

Re:College now days is more about profit now days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702979)

I was thinking exactly the same thing.

Re:College now days is more about profit now days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702981)

Don't people use photocopiers anymore?

When I was at university (a very long time ago), those of us who couldn't afford the text books used some time to borrow a book (friend or library) and made photocopies of the relevant pages and put them into a folder. The library staff were even helpful in showing us how to do it quickly.

Maybe the latest photocopiers can detect this, shutdown the machine and call the cops ....

Re:College now days is more about profit now days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703181)

Don't people use photocopiers anymore?

We just used to bring it to Staples Business Depot. In two hours they would make 9 bound copies for us, for about $12 per copy.

Re:College now days is more about profit now days (3, Insightful)

secret_squirrel_99 (530958) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703301)

Don't people use photocopiers anymore?
no, they grab a torrent of the PDF of the book. I can find and download most textbooks in less time that it take you to walk to the copier. Most students can do it faster than that.

Re:College now days is more about profit now days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703103)

One of my close friends is an author, and while she doesn't write textbooks she knows the business pretty well (it helps that she knows many, many academics). Most textbooks don't make much money at all, and instead are released for the prestige to the author and therefore their school (hence, MIT Press). The high prices are because there are so few sales that they're essentially boutique items. This is, I'm quite sure, not the case for all textbooks, but your cynical image is not true as a blanket statement.
 
In my own experience as a student, I've had a couple of different instances of dealing with fully edited pre-print versions of text books. In one case it was written by the professor of the class and required, and in another it was written by a friend of the (different) professor and was completely optional. In both cases we were charged only for the cost of copying, something like $6 for the one written by a friend and I'd guess $12 for the very long book written by the prof. These were not people looking to squeeze whatever money they could out of us, and neither book has become huge sellers.

Re:College now days is more about profit now days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703201)

That is why text book get updated so much also some professors get a cut of the book costs for the books they author so some of them rip out pages to force students to buy a new book for the class.

Man. Others have already commented on your terrible grammar, so I'll comment on your content.

If a prof (or anyone else) writes a book, they should get author's royalties - after all, they wrote it.

It's a bit of a dick move for a prof to write a crappy overpriced book and require it for their own course. Every time that happened to me, the book sucked.

It's also very common for publishers to give large bribes to profs when they require a book for their course, especially for the large 1st & 2nd year course. This is hard to track & prevent though.

Globalisation Baby (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702823)

As long as custom is paid, then it should be FULLY legal. After all if firm/MPAA/whatnot can have region code, and import cheap from China, or even outsource jobs, then everybody should be allowed to do it. Globalisation and import/export as logn as custom are paid, should be fully legal. And if they (publisher) lose money on that, bad luck.

Textbook industry is a bunch of crooks (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702827)

Pretty much a cartel at this point. They even got together with the teacher's unions and pretty much killed the sale of used teacher edition books on ebay and the like to shut homeschoolers out of the market. Teachers made up the sob story of kids buying teacher editions to copy the solutions out of because they just wanted to photocopy the books. Textbook makers went along since they wanted homeschoolers to buy full price new editions instead of selling used copies between each other.

Even if you aren't a homeschooler, it jacked up the prices of textbooks immensely.

Re:Textbook industry is a bunch of crooks (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703161)

>>>killed the sale of used teacher edition books on ebay

Wow. I don't see how that's legal within the U.S. border, since if you buy something, you have every right to covert it back to cash through the used market. (Next I guess they'll want to outlaw the sale of used CDs, DVDs, or videogames.)

I don't understand (5, Insightful)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702831)

I fail to understand how the first-sale doctrine does not apply just because the first sale was outside the US. I would understand completely if ICE was coming after him for not paying duties or tariffs, but what does copyright have to do with anything here? He didn't make copies. He simply resold books the publisher was already paid for.

Re:I don't understand (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702933)

Its even more mystifying trying to figure out what crime he committed.

Did he violate the Robinson-Patman act? No, it seems being a victim as defined by that act is illegal ?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinson-Patman_Act [wikipedia.org]

Re:I don't understand (5, Informative)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703027)

I fail to understand how the first-sale doctrine does not apply just because the first sale was outside the US. I would understand completely if ICE was coming after him for not paying duties or tariffs, but what does copyright have to do with anything here? He didn't make copies. He simply resold books the publisher was already paid for.

The First Sale Doctrine doesn't apply to copyrighted good manufactured outside the U.S. The relevant case law is Pearson v. Liu, decided in the district court of the Southern District of New York. The case was appealed to the 2nd circuit court of appeals which affirmed [findlaw.com] the lower court's decision. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court which denied to hear the case, letting the decision of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to stand.

Re:I don't understand (5, Informative)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703285)

Apologies for replying to my own post, but I must make a correction. The link I provided was not for the Pearson v Liu case, but rather for the current case mentioned in the article. I was therefore in error in stating that the Supreme Court allowed that ruling to stand. The more relevant case, as it has already reached the Supreme Court is Omega v Costco [wikipedia.org] , a 9th Circuit Court opinion which held the same thing: the First Sale Doctrine does NOT apply to copyrighted goods manufactured abroad. This opinion was appealed to the Supreme Court, but Justice Kagan recused herself, as she had previously argued the case for the government. The result was a 4-4 decision, which meant that the 9th Circuit decision stood, but it doesn't set a national precedent. This present case might well settle that precedent once and for all.

Duties? (1)

michael_cain (66650) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702863)

Years ago, when this kind of practice surfaced from time to time, the usual problem for the student doing the importing was that they neglected to pay a required duty/tariff on goods imported for resale. Which landed them in hot water with the federal government, who insisted on looking at their records and collecting -- or attempting to collect -- the amounts due. While that doesn't appear to be the issue in this case, I wonder if the tariffs are still in place and whether US Customers will be knocking on his door?

Re:Duties? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703067)

Isn't there a duty free limit below you don't have to pay duties? So from every trip back home you bring a couple of books with you. How are the prices in canada and mexico?

First Sale Doctrine? (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702895)

can it apply to books? and if so, does it still apply if the book was violating copyright? but how about if it WASN'T violating copyright where it was originally sold? It's a complicated issue. From a purely ethical/common sense standpoint it should be ok for him to sell it, but there may be laws bought onto the books that prevent it.

Re:First Sale Doctrine? (1)

hercubus (755805) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702993)

... It's a complicated issue... From a purely ethical/common sense standpoint...

That's why we have the Supreme Court, to consider and weigh these most complicated cases and then give their pro-corporate ruling, and a hand job, to whichever CEO takes them duck hunting. Rock on Supremes!

Re:First Sale Doctrine? (1)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 2 years ago | (#39702999)

According to TFA, this book was legally published abroad by a subsidiary of the American publisher. I don't see it as very complicated at all: the copy was legal, so it should be legal to import it.

But that would cut into profits...

Re:First Sale Doctrine? (3, Informative)

el jocko del oeste (2450190) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703163)

According to TFA, this book was legally published abroad by a subsidiary of the American publisher. I don't see it as very complicated at all: the copy was legal, so it should be legal to import it.

That would make sense. Except that U.S. Copyright law explicitly forbids it:

602. Infringing importation of copies or phonorecords

(a) Importation into the United States, without the authority of the owner of copyright under this title, of copies or phonorecords of a work that have been acquired outside the United States is an infringement of the exclusive right to distribute copies or phonorecords under section 106, actionable under section 501.

What's not clear is whether the First Sale Doctrine applies to books manufactured outside of the U.S. And that's the real question that's being put in front of the SC. If they decide that the First Sale Doctrine applies in this case, then the importation of these books for resale will be legal. If it doesn't apply, then it won't be legal.

The nerve! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702925)

How dare you question a publishers right to try and extract the maximum amount of money from all their customers!

They spent alot of money getting laws passed to maximize their profits. And here you are STEALING from them.

(we don't even pretend we're not corrupt and greedy above anything else anymore. we defend it!)

$600,000 for 8 books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702961)

So... that's $75,000 per book. I'm sure that is entirely reasonable given the losses incurred by the publisher.

Unless, you know, there is one rule for rich companies and another rule for common people - but that'd never be the case would it?

Rinse and repeat with CD/DVD/BluRay (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39702985)

Imagine if you had someone buy a Hollywood CD/DVD/BluRay overseas, send it to you in the USA and then you sold it on ebay in the USA.

The catch here is that the USA market is absurdly cheap so Americans don't do that ... people who live outside the USA do it.

And that my friends is why region coding, etc, was introduced.

Thus far the only country to decide that mod'ing your player that allowed grey market imports has been Australia because Sony took it to court and lost. Sony hasn't made that same mistake anywhere else.

Re:Rinse and repeat with CD/DVD/BluRay (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703093)

I've done this with UK resellers. Sometimes a work won't be available in the US or the UK version will just be cheaper. Since my video playback mechanism is an HTPC, it doesn't matter much to me what region the video came from.

Control, Control, Control (5, Informative)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703005)

Every level of the textbook business is about manipulation, lies, and control, from the publisher to the campus bookstore.

I researched the actual cost of textbooks once, and found industry websites with cost breakdowns which swore, up and down, that the profit margin on textbooks was 1%. I shit you not. You buy the 13th edition of your text for a retail price of $298, a book that's been out for 15 years and hundreds of printings, and they expect you to believe that even *now*, on the 13th edition, the publisher made well under $3 per copy.

On the retail side, I worked for a campus bookstore and my wife was their night manager. After they let me off for total lack of available work, I decided to just sell them books I found on ebay and bought from other students. After I sold them several dozen they fired my wife and banned me from the store based on their unwritten and inconsistently enforced policy that a student can sell only one copy of a particular title to them. Why do they care? I have no idea. The only time I sold them books was the two week period after spring semester buyback but before summer classes; I gave them more copies of these books, at prices and quantities they set, during a period when their used stock was already at it's yearly maximum but still not high enough for their liking. There were no other copies for them to acquire from students, and awful NC state laws forbid them from acquiring more used copies on Amazon, eBay, etc. For this they treated me like a criminal, fired my wife, and even made allusions to whether we'd stolen the books despite the fact that there are cameras, audits, and never less than 3 people at the registers.

It was all about control; what I did was good for their business, and they didn't give a shit. I was making money in a place they thought only they were allowed to make money. Even though it made them even more money than it made me, they hated me for it and considered it abusive.

Control, control, control.

$600,000 is a ridiculous, ridiculous fine... (2)

dryriver (1010635) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703037)

How many textbooks did this Thai student actually sell in America? Was it 8,000 textbooks that normally sell for 75 bucks a piece in the U.S.? Or is this yet another case of someone selling a mere "handful" of copyrighted IP - perhaps 10 - 30 units - and getting slapped with a stupidly large six-digit fine for it? U.S. copyright holders, as well as U.S. courts, don't seem to have any sense of proportion when it comes to these things. How can you fine some 600,000 Dollars for something that damaged you to the tune of - maybe - a few hundred dollars, if at all. I hope the Thai kid wins this case. Whatever he did, it can't be worth a 600K fine. Also, if the kid was struggling so much financially that he needed to resort to selling textbooks to get by, how the hell is this kid going to pay the 600K fine?

Re:$600,000 is a ridiculous, ridiculous fine... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703089)

Eight textbooks

Re:$600,000 is a ridiculous, ridiculous fine... (1)

dryriver (1010635) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703109)

It says in TFA that 8 books were from 1 particular publisher. But it doesn't say how many textbooks the Thai kid sold in total. Probably no more than a few dozen. But it doesn't say how many in the article.

Re:$600,000 is a ridiculous, ridiculous fine... (1)

smartaleq (905491) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703251)

In the case details it mentions that his paypal revenues were either $900K or $1.2Mil

Permission of the manufacturer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703063)

It is just crazy. I need a permission of the manufacturer if I want to sell my own property (products I bought and paid for)?

The student charged failed to realize... (4, Interesting)

rnturn (11092) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703097)

... two very important facts: 1.) There is a club and 2.) He's not in it.

Re:The student charged failed to realize... (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703197)

... two very important facts: 1.) There is a club and 2.) He's not in it.

But what are his feelings on frilly toothpicks?

Grey Market is legal for lots of other stuff... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703125)

Why is this any less legal than the Grey Market Dodge Grand Caravan that my family bought in 1997? At the time, the dealer told us that the vehicle was intended by the manufacturer for sale in some other country.

Globalisation is for corporates (5, Interesting)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703131)

Silly man, he did not understand that globalisation is for corporates to exploit, it is not for individuals to benefit from.

Companies do this all the time: buy goods or get them made where ever in the world it is cheapest for them to do so. They then sell them at different prices in different countries: price it too high in India and you don't get sales, price it too low in Europe and you loose potential profit.

They can't possibly have customers doing the same thing - it would damage their profits and the CEO's bonus would have to be cut. So they adopt all manner of tactics to stop us from benefiting from globalisation in the way that they do: * region coding on DVDs [wikipedia.org] , * refusal to service equipment if imported [cruisersforum.com] (even if identical ones are sold in the country), sue non approved importers [bbc.co.uk] , ... All designed to distort the free market

I would mind paying more for something that I buy in England if it were made with English labour paid English wages. What I object to is them paying third world people slave rates and charging me top dollar - I don't like the hypocrisy of it all.

Re:Globalisation is for corporates (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703151)

Whoops, omitted word: I would not mind paying more for something ...

Better way to get free textbooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703175)

Get together with, let's say, 10 of your classmates. Buy one expensive american edition of the textbook. Cut the spine, scan the pages, everyone gets a PDF. Everyone pays a tenth of the price of the book plus a couple of bucks extra to get some beers for the person who does the cutting and scanning.

If they have actually managed to make importing books illegal this method is not any worse.

Re:Better way to get free textbooks (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703227)

...and, of course, put the PDF on all filesharing networks you can find so future students don't have to bother to buy the book. The publishers are fucking you, fuck them back.

Textbook cartel (3, Interesting)

goldgin (1218596) | more than 2 years ago | (#39703321)

Being a student in London UK this all looks incomprehensible to me. I also find it extremely weird that you still like to call your land 'land of the free'. I'd be interested to learn more about this and other US "cartels" in education, media, health and commercial areas.

Right To Read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39703325)

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

Every once in a while another paragraph from this story comes true. :-/

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