Originally Posted by JDK1962
I would be curious, being of a fairly logical mindset, to know what the difference is. The publishers are setting up a system vulnerable to arbitrage, and expecting laws to protect them from the downside. How does that square with a free market economy, and how does protecting publishers promote any sort of public good?
Two key issues:
Arbitrage is brought into play because of multiple sovereign systems. Specifically, multiple nations with different laws, regulations, currencies and economies. The publishers either have to live with the fact that arbitrage is a real problem, or support the idea of a one-world economy. Without a one-world government to back it up, it's really hard to create a one-world economy. And unfortunately, arbitrage in this case is more due to the irrational idea that the text books need to be affordable in markets that normally cannot afford them at a fair market price that the publisher would normally sell them for. So the prices vary based on the economy buying them.
The only thing protecting publishers here is copyright, which is supposed
to promote a public good. i.e. the exchange of a time-limited monopoly as an incentive to create new works. You can argue that has been twisted and distorted over the years, but what is happening here is that publishers are using their rights given to them by copyright law, backed up by contract law to fight arbitrage of their goods. Unfortunately, this ability is a side-effect of copyright itself. When you can dictate how copies are made, that means you can dictate the conditions under which they are still "valid" copies. Note this can also be considered beneficial in protecting content targeted at the public domain (i.e. GPL), because without that ability, the GPL loses a lot of it's power to enforce the "keep it public" clauses in the license.
Without the ability to fight arbitrage, these publishers would not be selling these goods at such a price difference in these markets. Basically they are playing the statistics to get some % margin at the end of the day, while at the same time adapting to the current market realities of industrialized nations vs "emerging markets".
As for how this squares with a free market? It doesn't. The global economy is not a free market
in any sense of the idea, because you have competing sovereign interests. And it's damn tough to make it one when nationalities and other irrational aspects of humanity get in the way.
Unfortunately, I don't see this as going too well for the defendant who has been appealing the case. It really depends on the details of the contracts/etc under which the copies in Thailand were made.