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First Sale

The First Sale Doctrine

The physical ownership of an item such as a book, painting, manuscript or CD is not the same as owning the copyright to the work embodied in that item.

Under the First Sale Doctrine (Section 109 of the Copyright Act), ownership of a physical copy of a copyright-protected work permits lending, reselling, disposing, etc., of the item. However, it does not permit reproducing the material, publicly displaying or performing it, or engaging in any of the acts reserved for the copyright holder. Why? Because the transfer of the physical copy does not transfer the copyright holder’s rights to the work. Even including an attribution on a copied work (for example, putting the author’s name on it) does not eliminate the need to obtain the copyright holder’s consent. To use copyrighted materials lawfully, you must secure permission from the applicable copyright holders or a copyright licensing agent.