A college student’s venture selling college text books on eBay has sparked a Supreme Court case that could affect online sellers everywhere. Supap Kirtsaeng, having arrived in the U.S. from Thailand, found himself an average broke college student with bills to pay, tuition and of course text books. He decided to start a venture that could help pay for his schooling and other expenses in the long run. He got friends and relatives to buy text books in Thailand and then ship them to his dorm in the states. Kirtsaeng then sold those text books on eBay for a hefty profit. How much he made is still up for contention, but the publishers of those books have sued him and now the former college student turned Thai professor is ordered to pay $600,000 in restitution to the publisher, a case that has sparked worldwide interest and one that could put into question the future of e-sellers all across the globe.
Entrepreneur or eBay Criminal?
The case against Kirtsaeng could bring down the entire gray market, which represents annual trade to the tune of billions of dollars in goods that are sold outside of their official distribution channels. Examples of the gray market include eBay and Costco.
The Thai textbooks that the college student is accused of selling were virtually identical to their U.S. counterparts, but each included a disclaimer that they were not to be distributed to other parts of the world.