Later this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal regarding the first-sale doctrine of copyright law as it applies to college textbooks. However, museums and art institutions may have the most riding on the court's decision.
According to the ABA Journal, the case in question relates to whether a former graduate should be held liable for copyright infringement after purchasing comparatively inexpensive textbooks from Thailand and reselling them at a profit in the U.S. over eBay. Although the first-sale doctrine would typically have allowed the student to redistribute the materials at will after legally purchasing them, circuit and federal district courts have ruled that the clause should not apply to textbooks produced overseas.
Museum curators will be following this case closely, according to Law.com, as they believe similar infringement suits could be filed against institutions displaying foreign art if the prior verdicts are upheld.
"The decision has the potential to disrupt the mission of American museums and interfere with the public's access to art," attorney Stefan Mentzner told the news source.
If the decision goes in favor of the textbook publisher, several museums fear they would have significant trouble securing the rights to some of their rarer works and could be forced to remove them from publicly-available collections.