Bookmark and Share



» Access to Courts and Court Remedies

» Campaign Finance and Election Laws

» Constitutional Rights and Requirements

» Health, Safety, and Environment

» Open Government and Open Courts

» Representing Consumers

» Workers' Rights

Currently Featured Topics

Government Transparency
Consumer Justice
First Amendment
Health, Safety and the Environment


Read about our work helping lawyers
with cases in the Supreme Court.


  Public Citizen | Litigation Cases ***Search other cases***

Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Omega, SA

Topic(s): Scope of Statutory Rights and Remedies
Citation: 541 F.3d 982
Docket: 08-1423



The Copyright Act provides that a copyright holder has exclusive right to authorize the production, importation, and distribution of any copies. Under the first-sale doctrine, codified in the Copyright Act, the copyright holder exhausts those rights when he or she sells the material copies. The Ninth Circuit held here that the first-sale doctrine does not apply when the copy was produced abroad, unless the authorized first sale was in the United States.

The consequence is that any authentic material copy of a copyrighted work, including any ordinary good with a copyrighted label, that was produced and sold abroad cannot be resold, given as a gift, or donated in the United States. Because this holding, besides being unsupported by the Copyright Act, substantially undermines ordinary consumers' personal property rights, Public Citizen filed an amicus brief urging the Court to grant certiorari and overturn the Ninth Circuit's holding. The Court granted cert., and Public Citizen filed a merits-stage amicus brief supporting the petitioner.

On December 3, 2010, the Ninth Circuit decision was affirmed without opinion by an equally divided Supreme Court.

Copyright © 2017 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.

Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation


Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.


To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.