eBay and counterfeits, cont’d

by Walter Olson on July 28, 2008

Now it’s software makers talking about suing the auction provider for not doing more to police the sale of pirated copies. In contrast to the unsuccessful action by Tiffany ruled on earlier this month, such a suit might rely on copyright as opposed to trademark law. (Holly Jackson, “Software makers threaten to sue eBay over counterfeits”, CNet, Jul. 25).

Meanwhile, Roger Parloff at Fortune checked and found eBay was not exactly complying with that very sweeping court injunction obtained by luxury goods maker LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) which required the removal of relevant auctions not only on ebay.fr but on the American site and other affiliates if persons in France are able to access those sites. (Jul. 16).

{ 7 comments }

1 David Wisniewski 07.28.08 at 6:58 pm

Typical eBay, burying their head in the sand claiming, “we don’t know what is legitimate or not so we’re not going to do anything”.

From the previous post on Overlawyered, no one who supports eBay has been able to answer this very simple question: How (or why) is Ebay able to kill auctions for the sale of legal items that aren’t “politically correct”, yet not able to ferret out obvious counterfeit and pirated goods and blatantly illegal items such as kiddie porn?

2 gitarcarver 07.28.08 at 7:06 pm

David,

If you go back and read the previous thread, you’ll see that your answer is there. It is not an answer that you like, so I suspect that you will keep claiming that eBay is burying their heads in the sand.

Oh the irony.

3 David Wisniewski 07.28.08 at 7:26 pm

All you did was quote favorable press clippings and claim that eBay does remove unlawful items (without any attributions). If that was true, that eBay does police itself and removes illegal items, why then are they getting sued for allowing illegal items to be sold? And, no one answered my question of why eBay is able to remove auctions for legal items, yet claims that it can’t catch illegal items because it doesn’t know what is legal or illegal?

Why don’t you post your real name and email address? Hate to say this, but you seem like an eBay shill.

4 OBQuiet 07.28.08 at 8:35 pm

“Why don’t you post your real name and email address? Hate to say this, but you seem like an eBay shill.”

Only an idiot would post a real email address on a public blog. Why make spam filters work harder than they have to?

As for name, the internet has a long memory. Posting something negative about lawyers today could haunt me 20 years from now when I try to work for a lawyer. Even if I am right, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be petty.

Besides anonymous commentary has a long and cherished history in this country.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalist_Papers

5 gitarcarver 07.28.08 at 10:28 pm

All you did was quote favorable press clippings and claim that eBay does remove unlawful items (without any attributions).

As I said, you got your answer, but refuse to accept it.

If that was true, that eBay does police itself and removes illegal items, why then are they getting sued for allowing illegal items to be sold?

People can sue for any number of reasons. If you aren’t aware of that, I suggest you reread the name of this blog and its purpose.

And, no one answered my question of why eBay is able to remove auctions for legal items, yet claims that it can’t catch illegal items because it doesn’t know what is legal or illegal?

I am not sure what legal items for sale that you are claiming that eBay has removed. I suspect that you have some sort of history with eBay and that is coloring your judgement and perception.

That being said, there are many reasons why eBay cannot catch every “illegal” item that is being sold. First is that the seller is the one that provides the documentation and description. While eBay can flag certain terms used in a description, they cannot be “experts” on every item and every situation. That is why they have the programs they have in place that request the help of manufacturors and merchants to verify the authenticity of an item. It is much easier for eBay to ban an item listed in their banned items list because the description catches the seller and the item. In the case of something such as a Tiffany bracelet, the seller may be selling a legitimate Tiffany bracelet and should not be restricted on the sale of that bracelet.

Ebay is a private company that has the right to set the rules as to what it allows on its site even if the item may not be contrary to local or federal law. If you do not like that, you are free to start your own online auction site. That is the marketplace at work.

Why don’t you post your real name and email address?

Are you really trying to say that my comments are less worthy of consideration because you want to know my name? This is an old internet argument that has long since been shown for the idiocy it is. Frankly sir, I don’t care whether you know my name or email address. The fact of the matter is that I meet the requirements for posting on the site as set forth by the owners, editors and moderators of this site. I am sorry that is not good enough for you, but it is good enough for them and me.

Hate to say this, but you seem like an eBay shill.

Wow. Two misstatements in one sentence.

6 Bumper 07.28.08 at 11:34 pm

Very interesting, David W. Your post smells like you are pro LVMH (pun intended). Yet your firm’s website gives the impression of being pro business, but of course, LVMH is, like eBay, a very big business.

The answer to your question is probably somewhere between the proprietary algorithms that eBay uses to sniff out the good from the bad versus the manpower needed to check each auction, sprinkled with the income earned from looking the other way. eBay has shown itself to be more interested in its own well being than that of others. But why shouldn’t they, to do otherwise would incur the wrath of every two-bit pension fund from NY to CA. But so does LVMH and they are French and the common man has higher likelihood of using eBay than they do a product of LVMH. And eBay in not like a retailer who pays for a case of smellum to put on their shelves to sell. Extending the rationale of the French courts UPS could be held just as accountable for delivering the questionable merchandise.

If LVMH is really that worried let them hire a few dozen nerds to scan the internet for signs of skulduggery and notify eBay when they find it. If eBay fails to respond then perhaps they have a case. Otherwise it’s a simple lesson in political reality; in America, when push comes to shove, the haughty Frenchman will lose every time. Just ask that Kerry fellow.

7 rager 07.28.08 at 11:36 pm

David,

Like so much of the world, eBay isn’t a black and white place.

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