What legal options do I have if an Amazon 3rd party seller shipped me a book in US which clearly says "For sale in Indian subcontinent only" ?

I'd like to get a US edition book and get some penalties enforced on the seller who is selling illegal items in US.

I ordered a new book in US from a 3rd party seller on Amazon.com, to be shipped to a US address.

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    What makes you think the item is illegal in the US? Anyone can print anything on the book, but various things like the first sale doctrine typically overrules restrictions like that.
    – user28517
    Dec 15, 2020 at 23:36
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    What makes me think? Well, it says so at the back of the book. Dec 15, 2020 at 23:53
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    That doesn't necessarily make it illegal tho...
    – user28517
    Dec 15, 2020 at 23:59
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    Is there any reason to think that the U.S. edition would be different in any way?
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 18, 2020 at 1:09
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    @ohwilleke Yes, you have to be careful. I've seen one publisher mix up the homework question order in a textbook. Somebody who got the out-of-market version did all the wrong questions and got a bad grade. Also, the paper is often thinner and it may be a paperback vs hardcover book.
    – user71659
    Mar 19, 2023 at 21:43

2 Answers 2


First, the seller has not violated copyright law by selling you this book. Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. provides the precedent. The Supreme Court ruled that the First Sale doctrine applies to "grey market" imports of books, so buying a book cheaply in another country and then shipping it to the USA is entirely legal, regardless of what the publisher would like.

The court wrote:

Putting section numbers to the side, we ask whether the “first sale” doctrine applies to protect a buyer or other lawful owner of a copy (of a copyrighted work) lawfully manufactured abroad. Can that buyer bring that copy into the United States (and sell it or give it away) without obtaining permission to do so from the copyright owner? Can, for example, someone who purchases, say at a used bookstore, a book printed abroad subsequently resell it without the copyright owner’s permission?

In our view, the answers to these questions are, yes.

Wikipedia also has an article on the case.

As for your recourse against the seller, this would seem to be very limited unless they specifically promised you the US edition, or the content is materially different between US and Indian editions. You don't say what kind of book this is. Textbooks typically have identical content. Fiction and other entertainment books generally have local idioms and terminology changed (e.g. "pavement" versus "sidewalk") but will otherwise be the same. You might be able to claim that this is a material difference, but its likely to be difficult.

  • "Textbooks typically have identical content." Bad assumption. In this Academia SE question, it's reported the homework questions had different numerical values. I've also seen when they mixed the numbers of the homework questions: somebody with a foreign edition submitted apparent nonsense and got a bad grade. Finally, most foreign editions are softcover and printed on thinner paper.
    – user71659
    Mar 20, 2023 at 2:02

I assume that this is Amazon US and a US used-book dealer. The "For sale in India only" condition is a contractual relationship between the publisher and sellers in India. From the perspective of US law, it is perfectly legal to buy an India-only copy in India, then re-sell it in the US. For all you know, somebody brought a copy with them to the US and did just that. The reseller (presumably) has no contractual relation with the publisher, and even if they did, you can't sue the reseller for breach of the India-only contract with the publisher. The only party that has legal recourse based on the "India sale only" restriction is the publisher. However, given the likely physical differences between the US edition and the India edition, you have arguably been harmed (therefore can sue) – you didn't get what you reasonably believed that you were buying. If there was a clear sign that this deal was too good to be true (new copy of a book at 10% of market price) then the courts would probably say that you should have known what you were getting.

The publisher might have some interest in the matter and might pressure the reseller (but more likely will not). Amazon, on the other hand, is more interested in happy customers, and will smack sellers for bad behavior. The courts are very unlikely to punish the reseller.

  • I updated the question. I ordered a new book in US from a 3rd party seller on Amazon.com, to be shipped to a US address. Dec 16, 2020 at 2:43
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    Typically the reason why these books have such "restrictions" on them is not because the content differs, but because they are sold at a huge discount in that particular market, and the publishers don't want grey imports back into western markets where the books are typically sold at huge markup anyway (think $100 for a book in the US that might cost $15 in India) - pricing set to what the specific market will bear. Of course that doesn't matter if the higher priced market won't enforce your restrictions, so the lower priced market tries to instead so it can get the pricing in the first place.
    – user28517
    Dec 16, 2020 at 2:52
  • The content is usually the same but the production values often differ. We'd have to know the likely US/European production cost and the price differential to evaluate the "huge price inflation" hypothesis.
    – user6726
    Dec 16, 2020 at 5:58
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    @user6726 with books, the content is > 90% of the cost - paying the author, editors etc. They know they can force students in the US to pay $100 for the book, because its going to be mandated by course lecturers etc and they also know that students in India are never, ever going to be able to pay the same, so they charge what they can in India. The "restrictions" on sale of the books is an attempt to stop someone taking 100 copies of the cheap book from India and selling it in the US for 80% of the price there, making a huge killing at the expense of the publisher.
    – user28517
    Dec 17, 2020 at 19:43

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