First sale doctrine

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First sale doctrine is a principle under copyright law that protects the right of an owner of a work (e.g., book, movie or CD) to sell or transfer his copy however he likes. The common-law roots of the first sale doctrine allowed the owner of a particular copy of a work to dispose of that copy.

This judicial doctrine was grounded in the common-law principle that restraints on the alienation of tangible property are to be avoided in the absence of clear congressional intent to abrogate this principle.

This doctrine appears in section 109 of the Copyright Act of 1976. Section 109(a) specified that this notwithstanding a copyright owner's exclusive distribution right under section 106 the owner of a particular copy or phonorecord that was lawfully made under title 17 is entitled to sell or further dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.

Section 117 of the Copyright Act of 1976 was enacted in the Computer Software Copyright Amendments of 1980 in response to the recommendations of the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works' (CONTU). Section 117 permits the owner of a copy of a computer program to make an additional copy of the program for purely archival purposes if all archival copies are destroyed in the event that continued possession of the computer program should cease to be rightful, or where the making of such a copy is an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner.