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Abstract

Through the first sale doctrine, copyright laws around the world establish for an owner of the copy of a copyrighted work the right to resell, lend, donate, and, in some cases, even to rent the copy. Under the doctrine, the copyright holder loses any control over the future distribution of a copy of the work after the sale of that copy. The purchaser of the copy is free to treat it like any other property she possesses. She can transfer it to anyone else through a resale or donation. The doctrine is part of the balance copyright law strikes between the interests of copyright holders and those of purchasers of the copies. While the right still exists in law, in most digital works copyright holders and their distributers deprive purchasers of this right through digital right management (DRM) technologies and contractual terms. By establishing the continued justifications of this right in the context of digital works, the paper argues for its preservation and recommends for necessary legislative changes to guarantee the application of the first sale doctrine to digital works.

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