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I have purchased a book on Amazon and it was shipped to me. On the front page of the book, it clearly stated:

Circulation of this edition outside the Indian subcontinent is UNAUTHORIZED.

I live in the US and this book is clearly shipped out of the Indian subcontinent. The book condition is not new but used (like new). Am not sure if this purchase is illegal and what I should do about it.

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    Is there any indication of who put that notice on the book? If you could let us know what the book is, we might be able to find out how such a notice came to be, which would narrow down the legality of it winding up in your hands. I do think you yourself are entirely safe from any prosecution for possessing said book, if that's what you're worried about. Jun 3, 2020 at 13:28
  • @GeoffAtkins, it is the publisher that put the notice. In the book it also printed "This edition is manufactured in India and is authorized for sale only in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Circulation of this edition outside thest territories is UNAUTHORIZED". The book is basically mycoursebook.in/…, thouth I purchased on Amazon.
    – Zuriel
    Jun 3, 2020 at 13:49
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    Good read: nytimes.com/2006/03/29/education/…
    – animuson
    Jun 4, 2020 at 1:58

2 Answers 2

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You're probably fine. There's three points here that might commonly be governed by copyright law: the export from India, the import into the United States, and the sale of the book (generally it's the seller and not the purchaser on the hook). You're not the seller, and you're also probably not the exporter so import is the only thing you would need to worry about.

Likely Amazon is the importer, however, some quick searching around led me to a Canadian Amazon page which made clear that there are instances where you would act as the importer (I'm unsure if there's an equivalent US page).

Under US law, import and even resale of a book made lawfully according to US copyright law is legal. This is true even if that book was manufactured overseas, as the Supreme Court expressed in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc..

I'm less familiar with Indian copyright law, though since copyright law is usually territorial, it's unlikely that your US-based actions would be in violation of Indian law. However, it's entirely possible whoever sold/exported the book is in violation of Indian copyright law.

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Indian courts have interpreted the first sale doctrine to be territorially limited. So, for this book, second-hand sales are allowed only in the territory where the copyright holder originally released the work and it can only be sold outside that territory with the copyright owner’s permission.

Technically, the book you have in your hands is a copyright infringement. However, the seller is the one who made the infringing copy, not you.

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  • Thank you very much! Should I report this at all? If so, to whom?
    – Zuriel
    Jun 4, 2020 at 3:24
  • The seller didn't make a copy. There is no "infringing copy" as the copy was lawfully made. Jul 4, 2020 at 4:15
  • @DavidSchwartz infringed the copyright is what was meant. Jul 4, 2020 at 6:51
  • @MarkJohnson Then you're assuming the seller was in India and subject to Indian law. That might be true, but you can't really just assume it. The seller might have bought it in the US, legally entitling them to resell it under US law. Jul 4, 2020 at 18:26
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    @DaleM Once a US buyer acquires a lawfully-made copy, they have the right to sell it under US law. Someone likely violated Indian law somewhere in the chain of custody, but that's not a problem for someone not subject to Indian law. Jul 5, 2020 at 0:31

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