Does a geographical licence restriction hold after resale as secondhand item?

I have a book (in UK) that is no longer of any use to me, that I now plan to sell on, and notice that there is a restriction printed both inside and on the cover "This edition is licenced for sale only in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Circulation of this edition outside of these territories is unauthorised and strictly prohibited."

Does the doctrine of first sale hold such that I can sell this on, even though that would effectively be circulating the book outside the stated territories? As I bought the book secondhand, does that serve to exhaust/limit copyright and licencing restrictions, or would any contravention of copyright/licence continue to be attached to the book, regardless of how many owners it has had?


3 Answers 3


You are not bound by any contract. You bought a physical good that the seller was barred from selling outside of the listed countries by his supplier. You did not enter a contract with the seller's supplier.

Let's look the stream of commerce:

  1. Supplier of the item (Printing press) offers it.
  2. Sale with a sales limiting contract to resellers.
  3. Sale by reseller to customer without limiting contract.

The first sale doctrine says, that without a form of contract, the rights of the supplier are exhausted in step 2. Even with a contract limiting the reseller's rights, step 3 exhausts any right the supplier has in the item, unless he too explicitly signs a contract. Selling an item in normal commerce is not satisfying this requirement.

There already were no rights in the physical copy of the book when whoever bought the book first sold it to the second-hand seller you bought it from, and there can't be any more rights in the selling of this book gained by the original supplier unless he bought the book back from you.


It will be infringement by issue of a copy to the public, contrary to s.18 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.

It seems clear that the book has not previously been put into circulation in the EEA by or with the consent of the copyright owner.

Hence by issuing the copy to the public you are infringing the copyright in it.

Copyright law IS set up to allow companies to maintain differential pricing in different countries. It is NOT simply a matter of contract. You may not like it, but it's true.


In the U.S. it was considered a copyright violation to import a book printed and "first" sold out of the U.S.

That changed with a SCOTUS case, Kirtsaeng_v.John_Wiley & Sons in 2008. Now "first sale" is not interpreted as having any implied geographic limitations.

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