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Copyright Nightmare & Ebay

sharing lessons to those writing content



3:32 pm on May 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

We develop quality content for our niche, and our content has been syndicated to top tier websites. However, we found -- through a person who sent an email in our Contact Us form -- that there is a seller on ebay selling our articles.

We set up a buyer ID and bought an article from the seller. True enough, it is our article written by one of our writers that this seller is offering for auction. Word for word, without attribution to us or to the writer. And boy, we never imagined it was a hot item: I bought the article with 47 (out of 50) left and the following day I checked again only 4 were left available for sale. It took only 3 days for the seller to sell off the 50 items he offered.

We contacted ebay through their VERO program (Verified Rights Owner program). Basically, you need to provide proof that you are indeed the owner of the content/product. You fill out their Notice of Copyright Infringement form and fax it to them. After 2 days of emailing back and forth, we were accepted into the program. Seller had only 1 item left by then, but ebay removed his listing and sent a warning that the copyright owner has complained that the item for sale infringes on the copyright. We were quite happy with how ebay responded to our claim, and the swiftness of their actions.

Those who write content, I strongly suggest that you periodically check ebay to see if any of your publications are being offered for sale there. It's very frustrating to find your work up for sale by someone else who even has the temerity to place their own copyright notice on your work.


6:51 pm on May 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

... EBay basically cancelled the sale but not the seller's membership? 600 Feedbacks. I assume 600 good feedbacks? But stolen content. So he can sell 1000 more times? And only has to stop his auctions whenever the person that he stole from catches him and informs ebay? Very convenient for ebay. What does it take to get kicked off of ebay?

I don't think it should be eBay's job to police everything. Nor should they kick someone off based on hearsay, which is technically all they have right now. People say "You don't need a copyright for your work to be copyrighted" but this is only half true. When your only method of publishing is the Internet, it makes sense to get a REAL copyright on your work. Then if someone steals it you can fax proof over to eBay. For all ebay knows the poster could have stolen the content from the auction seller.

I think it's a good thing that ebay HASN'T canceled their account because now the original author can monitor this user. If eBay canned them, the person could just create another account and start over.


12:12 am on May 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Copyright & trademark infringement is a ground for suspension in Ebay. But it has to be multiple offenses, although I am not sure of their definition of "multiple". If it is similar to their non-payment system, 3 different UNIQUE users/copyright owners must complain before they suspend the seller. For all I know, we may be the first one who has reported the seller. Still waiting for 2 more copyright owners.

BTW - we do have several blue correction sheets used in the editing process that can provide a trace as to the article's development. My writer wrote the article and it was published in 2001.

The seller is not offering any single items for sale the whole week this week - when normally he would have about 100-150 articles for sale in his eBay store. Hopefully he will stop selling altogether. Nonetheless, we monitor the items that he sells. His feedback is 96.3 - and some of his negatives are due to complaints that the articles were ripped off somewhere (and not just from our site), with some of his buyers even putting the name of the site where he copied the article from. He's apparently busy going around to find good articles that he can profit from :o(

We were able to learn about him when a long-time subscriber bought the article from him, and discovered that it was the same article he read from our newsletter (this is an evergreen type of article). He thought the article he bought was vaguely familiar. He searched our site, found the article, compared it word-for-word and reported it to us.


2:12 am on Jun 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Gidday folks,

Amazing ... what'll they think of next?

I guess the capitalist dream is alive and well, eh? ;)

While I'm no expert, perhaps those of you on this thread might consider, or be able to adapt RRS feed/rights for your content?



3:38 am on Jun 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

>While I'm no expert, perhaps those of you on this thread might consider, or be able to adapt RRS feed/rights for your content?

Blush ... meant *RSS* feed of course! : #-} (Well I *did* say I wasn't an Xpert!)



11:06 pm on Jun 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

According to eBay's VERO program, upon receiving notice of an infringement, the pull the sellers item and notify them that if they do it again, their account will be cancelled.

The people who have stolen our intellectual property have always complied, so I'm not sure if eBay would actually take the next step immediately. Given how swiftly eBay takes action once receiving notice, I wouldn't doubt it at all though.

From a webmasters perspective, I am extremely happy with how eBay handles these issues. Many other large online sites simply direct you to their legal department where you can spend weeks going back and fourth. Instead, eBay takes action immediately, which helps to minimize the intellectual property owners damage quickly.


3:05 pm on Jun 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


My suggestion with articles and reports, specifically state in your original work that "this item cannot be sold on Ebay by any entity except "XYZ" company. The retail price is $29.95. Please report any illegal copies or copyright violations to you@domain.com. (small print in the opening page of your work).
This way, whoever buys the item and has any sense of honesty, might demand a refund or feel like they bought something that was stolen.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many sellers have actually bought "resell" rights that weren't available in the first place, then sell it to someone else.

I run 30 web sites, 2 of which deal with "reports". Our reports are .PDF files, password protected and clearly state how it can be re-sold. Realistically, if your item ends up being sold on Ebay or somewhere else, it's a BIG waste of time, effort and money trying to sue. It's basically SOL in most cases. The only time you will get anything for your efforts is when it involves thousands and thousands of dollars and something that affects the general public in a very negative way. Suing someone over $1,000 worth of stolen articles is rarely worth the effort.

There are plenty of questionable items selling on ebay to unsuspecting buyers. From ranking boosters to "rarely seen on ebay" turnkey sites promising monthly income, (yeah right), etc. I sell on ebay and I never promise that people will make any money to get their money. I also use my web site ID as my user name so I get free url promotion.


3:10 pm on Jun 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Very convenient for ebay. What does it take to get kicked off of ebay?

Ebay is in business to "make money" and to avoid conflicts with their clients, even if the client is stealing or plagiarizing, etc. We don't live in a world where "justice" and righteousness is the norm, specially in business. For example, if ebay yanks a seller of its client list and later it's found that the client wasn't really stealing, they could be sued for discrimination and lose a lot more than the $3.00 fees or so. So they do their part in warning the client but leave any legal issues between buyer and seller as "civil matters" - Most businesses do this so they stay out of the loop or avoid being named as part of a lawsuit between the parties. So the crooks always have a way out of trouble as usual.


3:29 pm on Jun 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Not speaking as a lawyer now (or ever), but it seems that eBay would have some liability if they allowed continued selling by a company or individual that had multiple reports of content theft. At some point, it would seem, they would have to yank the seller and take reasonable precautions to prevent re-registration or exercise some due diligence to assure themselves that the content offered by this vendor was legit and your incident was a weird fluke. (For example, the seller might produce correspondence, cancelled checks, etc., showing that THEY had been defrauded.)

I'm sure eBay's TOS disclaims any and all responsibility for everything, but they can't be a party to profiting from the sale of stolen stuff, particularly if the problem has been reported multiple times.


11:39 am on Jun 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Yeah Ebay, well I once got ripped off by this guy buying a rug from him he had 700 positives, no rug.

Checked his feedback profile he also had 400 Negatives yet Ebay hadnt kicked him off. Bland response from Ebay when I complained. Basically clear off he pays his bills.

I raised hell went to the USPS postal fraud section a few days later ebayer is booted I get my money back.

Ebay really couldnt careless unless they are on the receiving end, however Pirated articles are going to be hard for them to tackle.

How do they know its pirated? They do have duty to kick this guy off once its been proved that hes a cheat. Once should be enough.

[edited by: engine at 9:40 am (utc) on June 9, 2004]
[edit reason] language [/edit]


9:37 pm on Jun 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

eBAY rocks


9:38 pm on Jun 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



1:20 am on Jun 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

re: How do they know if it's a pirated article?

In the U.S., if you file Copyright forms with the U.S. government for your works (cheap and easy to do), you have primary proof that you are the copyright holder. I doubt even eBay would play games in that instance. They could be viewed as being complicit if they did (IANAL).



7:24 pm on Jun 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Perhaps the best strategy is to target those who actually use the content. I can't remeber the exact details, but I recall one website I used to read which found out that a large portion of their articles had been ripped off and where being sold as a survival guide in established stores. If a business is going to take a risk and purchase cheap content from a shady individual then they need to be prepared to face the consequences when it turns out it was stolen. It may be difficult to track these people down -- it just depends on how many resources you wish to devote to this task. The easiest of course would be to search for key sentences on Google to find out if other websites are distributing your articles.

I'll be honest, I'm not a huge fan of existing copyright law. However, when someone tries to make money off your content that is where I draw the line. I believe only a few months ago a template site had all their content sold on ebay with resale rights. By the time it was stopped by ebay, the sale price had gone down to $5 for everything. There is a nightmare for sure.


8:08 pm on Jun 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Well I've just sent off my first cease-and-desist, to a directory site that seems to be mirroring much of the ODP (that's the entire sites, not just the listings). I'm mad now I've just found out, but in a week or two it'll be just another annoying chore to add to the list.
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