Thursday, November 11, 2010

Supreme Court Hearing on Copyright First Sale - November 8, 2010

I was in attendance at the Supreme Court on Monday, November 8, 2010 for the hearing in the Costco v. Omega matter. You can read the transcript of the hearing here.

It was interesting to hear the judge’s questions on the first sale doctrine and its applicability to copyrighted works made and distributed abroad.

A couple of non-substantive observations. (Disclosure: I have worked on this case on behalf of Omega from 2004 – present)

The outside of the courthouse is well-kept and architecturally stands out (even in Washington DC surrounded by other similar inspiring buildings including the Library of Congress, Capital Building and the Senate and House office buildings.

The building itself is celebrating its 75th Anniversary. The huge halls and columns inside are majestic but in some ways only lead up to disappointment once entering the courtroom itself. The courtroom is small. The seating capacity could not have been over 250 people. The vaulted ceilings may make everything seem small but there were relatively few rows of seats. (Some were bench type seating while chairs in rows and on ends of benches comprised the remainder of the seats.) I have been to circuit courts with more abundant seating.

The justices themselves were well prepared and were engaging with questions. Given the serious nature of Supreme Court proceedings in general, I was surprised that there were a couple of moments of laughter (where Justice Breyer indicated that even he had to draw the line somewhere and Justice Scalia quipped, "Let me write that down.").

Relatively speaking, the hour went by fairly quickly with three speakers, Aaron Panner for Respondent Omega, Roy Englert for Petitioner Costco, and Malcolm Stewart for the United States in support of Respondent.

A decision will be made before the end of June.

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