But Kirtsaeng and his owners' rights supporters worried a slippery slope would quickly occur on a variety of fronts if they lost at the Supreme Court:
--Domestic manufacturers would have financial incentive to shut down U.S. plants and produce everything overseas, since they could get a monetary cut and distribution control over every resale. Kirtsaeng's lawyers said that would amount to double-dipping, with copyright holders getting paid twice for the same item's sale.
--Libraries would have to either have to purge their stacks of every foreign-printed work, pay a royalty, or essentially go out of the public lending service.
--American consumers would lose access to affordable and differentiated goods, and charitable donations would be stifled.
--With a global consumer economy now dominated by digital and cloud-based access and transfer of information and entertainment, the cross-border lines would create chaos and uncertainty when it comes to determining where a particular copyrighted good is manufactured and then resold.
Wiley, with the Justice Department in support, dismissed those scenarios.
But Andrew Shore, a lawyer and executive director of the Owners Rights Initiative, which backed Kirtsaeng, speaking prior to arguments before the Supreme Court in October, said, "The rule we want the Supreme Court to adopt is simple: you bought it, you own it and you can do with it what you please. Very clear, very clean, very easy. The copyright holders are getting paid. They're getting paid on the first sale."
In dissent Tuesday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the majority ruling could affect future international trade negotiations. She was supported by Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia.
In federal law, she said, "Congress intended to provide copyright owners with a remedy against unauthorized importation of foreign-made copies of their works, even if those copies were made and sold abroad with the copyright owner's authorization."
The high court already had ruled in prior cases that copyright holders cannot block U.S.-made goods sent overseas from later being brought back into the country for resale. The issue in this case was whether copyright laws applied to foreign-made goods imported into the American market.
Kirtsaeng, now a professor back in Thailand, never responded to CNN's efforts for an interview.
He initially testified receiving advice from friends back home -- and consulting "Google Answers," an online research help service -- to ensure he could legally resell the foreign editions in the United States.
In court papers, he also said he was unable to afford the hefty pending judgment against him. The man's lawyers said that after the lower court's verdict, he was ordered to give the publisher his golf clubs and computer in partial compensation.
The case is Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (11-697).