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There is a case before the US high Court( Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sonsbefore) that at first seems to have little to do the public exhibition of modern art. Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons Involves a Thai student , Kirtsaeng, who while studying in the US realised that he could cheaply buy text books published by Wiley in Thailand and then resell them in the US at a profit.

Wiley sued Kirtsaeng on the basis that he was infringing Wileys copyright on these textbooks US editions. Legal argument in the case centres on "the doctrine of first sale a doctrine allows the resale of used books and other copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright holder. Wiley argued that because the textbooks in question were made outside the US, the doctrine of first sale did not apply to their resale.

If the High Court upholds the previous decision in favour of Wiley, the consequences for art museums and other institutions that display modern art created outside the US could be very large. This is a long and detailed article about the potential ramifications of the Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons case for art museums, it is a must read. CORPERATE COUNSEL U.S. Museums Concerned About Unartful Impact of SCOTUS Copyright Case

"every museum in the U.S. that exhibits modern art created overseas could potentially be infringing"
"The most basic of museum functions—exhibiting art—could give rise to infringement claims,"

said Stefan Mentzer, a partner with White & Case who filed an amicus brief [PDF] with the Supreme Court on behalf of the Association of Art Museum Directors and 28 museums of art. "The decision has the potential to disrupt the mission of American museums and interfere with the public’s access to art."

"At the Art Institute of Chicago, for example, an exhibit of paintings, sculpture, prints, and drawings by Pablo Picasso planned for this spring could leave the museum open to copyright infringement claims, said attorney Troy Klyber, the museum’s intellectual property manager"

Art Resale Royalties are currently being considered in the US. Art Resale Royalties are a major new restriction of the "doctrine of first sale". The potential consequences for art museums of restrictions of the doctrine of first sale over the resale of foreign made textbooks are bad enough.

Imagine the possible unintended consequences for art museums that could be created by ARR, a major restriction of the doctrine of first sale applying to most of the modern art made in the US and Europe over the past 100 years!

About the Author

John R Walker

John R Walker

John R Walker has been exhibiting for more than 30 years. His artworks can be found in many of Australia's major public and private collections including: the ACT Legislative Assembly, Art Gallery of...