Retailers and used-book sellers were also concerned, he said, and software contained in automobiles, microwaves, mobile phones and computers is often produced overseas.
“A geographical interpretation would prevent the resale of, say, a car, without the permission of the holder of each copyright on each piece of copyrighted automobile software,” Breyer wrote.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy dissented.
Ginsburg said the majority’s “stunning” interpretation of the Copyright Act is “at odds with Congress’ aim to protect copyright owners against the unauthorized importation of low-priced, foreign made copies of their copyrighted works.”
The court considered a similar case about two years ago. But Kagan was recused because of her work as President Obama’s solicitor general, and the court deadlocked 4 to 4. The court did not disclose how individual justices voted in that case. Tuesday’s 6 to 3 vote indicates that at least one justice changed his or her vote to join the majority.
The case is
Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons
In a second business case decided Tuesday, the court was unanimous. It said a plaintiff could not direct a class-action suit from federal court to a more friendly state court by stipulating that damages would be less than $5 million.
That is the threshold set by the Class Action Fairness Act that gives federal courts jurisdiction over class actions. Many plaintiffs would rather have their cases heard in more generous state courts, and one strategy used by trial lawyers is to stipulate that they will not seek more than $5 million.
But Breyer, again writing for the court, said that “a plaintiff who files a proposed class action cannot legally bind members of the proposed class before the class is certified.”
The proposed class action was brought by Arkansan Greg Knowles against Standard Fire Insurance Company. Knowles’s home was damaged by a hailstorm, and he alleged that the company did not fully reimburse him and others for losses.
The case is Standard Fire Insurance Co. v. Knowles.
Discuss this topic and other political issues in the politics discussion forums.