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I am soon going to move from India to Norway. I own multiple reference books that will be relevant to my work in the future as well and I plan to move with my books. Several of the editions that I own are marked "for sale in the Indian subcontinent only". One of them bears a sticker "ILLEGAL for sale in USA" and inside the book, in two places, contains a sticker "It is ILLEGAL under Indian Law to export this book from India."

Question: will I get into trouble at any point because I own books with these labels/stickers? Have other academics faced any problem possessing these books outside of the Indian subcontinent?

For background information on International Edition

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    Not a lawyer, but those labels only refer to sale, not personal use. I don't see why it should be a problem unless you sell or share the books in the country you go to. Mar 12, 2022 at 16:00
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    This seems unlikely for anything that you legally acquired in India. Resale might be technically illegal, but unlikely to be charged for private sales. The goal of the law is commercial sales.
    – Buffy
    Mar 12, 2022 at 16:00
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    Can you peel the stickers off? :P Mar 12, 2022 at 16:03
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    @astronat even though I called them stickers, they are actually printed...so no :P
    – stuckstat
    Mar 12, 2022 at 16:07
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    Possible duplicate of law.stackexchange.com/questions/52035/… Mar 12, 2022 at 16:35

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The goal of such "rules" isn't to prevent scholars from moving with their libraries, but to restrict the potential practice of commercial brokers from taking advantage of regional discounts and immediately reimporting them into place without those discounts.

It might even be questionable whether "ILLEGAL for sale..." could be enforced in any case, though copyright restrictions need to be observed.

I think the worst that would happen is if some customs officer "raised an eyebrow" if you carried a few books across a border. But the eyebrow raising would likely be followed by a smile.

It might be technically illegal for you to resell books in some places, but there would really be no one to enforce such a "law" for a private sale. It would be a different matter if you had a hundred copies of the same text, of course because now the publisher might take notice.

And such laws are much more likely to be civil in nature, requiring a lawsuit and not a criminal matter.

There is a general principle in the law, though it is informal: The law does not concern itself with trivialities.

But, I'm not a lawyer. I try to judge such things with common sense.

Note also that the standard boilerplate printed in the front matter of most books (in the US, say) imply that you have fewer rights than you do. They don't, generally, mention fair use exceptions. "No part of this book may be reproduced in any form..." That is really wishful thinking on their part, not actual law or regulation.

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  • For that matter, it's not clear to me that there is any such law (e.g., in the U.S.). How could it be formulated so that U.S. citizens could not buy lots of cheap books abroad, bring them back to the U.S. (declaring them, ...), and reselling? Printing "it's illegal to do X" doesn't magically make it illegal, after all. :) Apr 11, 2022 at 22:28
  • @paulgarrett, bulk offenders (1000 copies of a Calc text) might get sued, but I agree, there are unlikely to be laws that prevent it unless fraud is involved. For an individual, the trivialities principle is a good safeguard.
    – Buffy
    Apr 11, 2022 at 22:30
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    Still, on what grounds would a "bulk offender" be sued? That the publisher didn't want them to do that? In the sense that anyone can sue anyone for anything, sure, but ... grounds? I've seen these imprints in books for ages, but never thought about it... Is there a U.S. law saying that if a publisher stamps that in a book it must be obeyed? Under penalty of ... unhappiness of the publisher??? Apr 11, 2022 at 22:47
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The vast majority of academics will not mind that you possess books marked in this way. This is particularly true if you bought them in India.

This site is not for legal advice. You might look at https://law.stackexchange.com/questions/52035/legal-issues-regarding-a-recent-amazon-purchase/52050#52050 https://law.stackexchange.com/questions/2059/why-were-books-never-published-with-a-eula

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    Note that Indian law won't apply in Norway unless there is an international convention. Nor is it academics that might object or not, but publishers.
    – Buffy
    Mar 12, 2022 at 16:40
  • @Buffy This is neither a law nor a publishing site. Mar 12, 2022 at 19:22

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