Such differences in worldwide prices are often exploited by retail and resale firms, especially on high-end luxury and specialized items. Known as parallel sales or the "gray market" -- foreign-made goods obtained through secondhand sources -- the strategy costs manufacturers tens of billions of dollars a year, according to some business-generated estimates.
Olson will argue a 1978 congressional law gives publishers protection when they sell their works at differing prices in foreign markets, preventing their importation and resale into the United States.
A federal appeals court in New York agreed, ruling last year such "gray market" items are not subject to the first-sale mandate.
The high court already has ruled in prior cases that copyright holders cannot block U.S.-made goods sent overseas from later being brought back into the United States for resale. The issue now is whether copyright laws apply to foreign-made goods imported into the American market.
But Kirtsaeng and his owners rights supporters worry a slippery slope would quickly occur on a variety of fronts, if they lose 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 say that amounts to double-dipping, with copyright holders getting paid twice for the same item's sale.
--Libraries would have to either 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, dismiss those scenarios, and say Congress would be in a position to ensure libraries in particular do not suffer from any high court ruling against them.
The entertainment industry says a ruling in their favor is vital in the digital economy to ensure they can divide their property and distribution rights across those global markets.
As for Kirtsaeng, he is a professor back in Thailand and never responded to CNN's efforts for an interview.
He initially testified receiving advice from friends back home and also 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 stated being unable to afford paying the hefty, pending judgment against him. The man's lawyers say after the initial 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). A ruling is expected in coming months.