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A Guide to eBay Copyright Infringement

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Manish Jindal

February 15, 2024

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A Guide to eBay Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement is a serious concern in the digital age, affecting creators, businesses, and intellectual property owners.

As one of the world’s largest online marketplaces, eBay recognises the importance of protecting copyright and enforcing policies to maintain a fair and lawful trading environment.

eBay provides a platform for individuals and businesses to buy and sell a wide range of products, but it is crucial for all users to respect the rights of intellectual property owners.

This includes copyrighted materials such as images, descriptions, and other creative works that are protected by law.

In this article, we will explore the topic of eBay copyright infringement, shedding light on the policies, procedures, and steps you can take to protect your copyrighted material or report instances of unauthorised use on the platform. 

What is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement is the unauthorised use of copyrighted material, including the sale of counterfeit items.

It’s a violation of a copyright owner’s exclusive rights, and it’s a serious offense worldwide.

eBay Copyright Infringement Policy

eBay has strict guidelines regarding potentially infringing items that may violate copyrights, trademarks, or other intellectual property rights.

Although certain items may be legal, they are not allowed on eBay if they frequently violate copyright or trademark laws. This policy also extends to specific types of information found in sales listings.

It is important to understand that selling pirated or counterfeit products, as well as using images and text from other eBay members without consent, is strictly prohibited.

Artists, designers, and software developers (or their employers or distributors) exert control over the sale and protection of their work, and eBay respects these rights.

Here are some examples of infringements that may result in eBay removing an item listing:

  • Trademark Violation: Unauthorised use of a brand name, logo, tagline, or symbol.
  • Sale of Fake Items: Misrepresenting products as being manufactured by a different company.
  • Warranty Misrepresentation: Falsely stating that a manufacturer’s warranty covers resold products.
  • Copyrighted Images and Text: Using images and text from other sales listings without proper authorisation.
  • Unauthorised Copies: Selling unauthorised copies of media, software, and paintings, including backups, pirated versions, duplicates, and bootlegs.

The principle is straightforward: If you don’t have permission from the owner to use their brand name, logo, pictures, or text, it is best to avoid them entirely.

Failure to comply with these rules will result in eBay removing your sales listing and may lead to limitations on your buying/selling privileges or account suspension.

Combatting eBay intellectual property infringement via VeRO program

eBay has established the VeRO (Verified Rights Owner) program with the primary objective of protecting intellectual property owners from potential trademark, patent, or copyright infringements.

This initiative enables rights holders to register with eBay’s VeRO program by providing legal documentation and substantiating their ownership of the specific intellectual property in question.

By joining the VeRO program, these vigilant property owners undertake the responsibility of monitoring eBay auction listings themselves or employing third-party web monitoring agents to detect any instances of infringement.

In the event they come across violations, either the rights owner or their authorised representative can swiftly initiate action by filing a complaint.

This involves completing the NOCI (Notice of Claimed Infringement) form, which includes essential evidence substantiating the alleged violation.

The completed form is then submitted to eBay via email or fax for review.

Upon receipt of a complaint, eBay promptly launches an investigation into the reported infringement.

Simultaneously, the seller associated with the problematic listing is notified via email that a VeRO participant has requested its removal.

Unless a mutually agreeable resolution is reached between the seller and the IP owner, the compliant listing will remain suspended until further action is taken.

The VeRO program underscores eBay’s commitment to upholding the rights of IP owners and fostering a secure marketplace environment.

By actively engaging in monitoring and taking appropriate enforcement measures, eBay strives to maintain a platform that respects and protects the IP rights of all parties involved.

Reportable Violations: Protecting Intellectual Property on eBay

IP owners can report listings on eBay that include various types of violations related to intellectual property.

Some examples of reportable listings include:

  • Trademark Infringement: Listings that unlawfully use registered trademarks, brand names, logos, or symbols without authorisation from the trademark owner.
  • Copyright Infringement: Listings that use copyrighted images, text, or other creative works without the permission of the copyright owner.
  • Patent Infringement: Listings that offer products or inventions that infringe upon patented technology or design without the consent of the patent holder.
  • Counterfeit Goods: Listings that sell counterfeit or imitation products, including fake designer items, knockoffs, or replicas, without authorisation from the genuine brand owner.
  • Unauthorised Copies of Media: Listings offering unauthorised copies of movies, music, software, or other copyrighted media without permission from the rights holders.
  • Parallel Imports: Item listings that involve the importation and sale of genuine branded products without the authorisation of the brand owner or authorised distributors.
  • Unauthorised Use of Rights Owner’s Images or Text: Listings that use images, descriptions, or other content without permission from the rights owner, such as using product images from another seller’s listing.
  • Design or Utility Patent Infringement: Item listings that infringe upon the protected design or functionality of a patented product.

IP owners have the ability to report these types of problematic listings to eBay through the appropriate channels, providing evidence of the infringement and requesting action to be taken.

eBay has mechanisms in place, such as the VeRO program, to address and handle such reports in accordance with intellectual property rights laws and regulations.

When it comes to reporting problematic listings on eBay, it’s essential to understand the appropriate reasons for doing so.

There are certain instances where reporting is not permitted:

Selective Distribution: You cannot report a listing solely because you want to control the distribution or reselling of products to authorised sellers. This refers to selective distribution and is not a valid reason for reporting.

Regulatory Compliance Issues: Listings cannot be reported solely based on the fact that the items being sold are illegal or controlled by the government.

These issues fall under regulatory compliance and should be addressed through the appropriate legal channels instead of reporting on eBay.

Contractual Issues: If a brand’s contractual terms limit reselling opportunities or impose certain restrictions, you cannot report a listing based on these contractual issues alone. Contractual matters should be resolved directly with the involved parties.

Minimum Advertised Pricing: Listings cannot be reported simply because they are listed below a controlled or set price point, which is known as minimum advertised pricing.

Price-related issues should be addressed through negotiations or other appropriate means, rather than reporting on eBay.

Report Copyright Infringement on eBay: Protecting Your Rights

If you encounter a problematic listing that infringes on your trademark protection rights, eBay provides the VeRO (Verified Rights Owner) program as the designated avenue for reporting such violations.

The VeRO program allows intellectual property rights owners to report potential infringements efficiently.

The following steps outline the registration process for eBay’s VeRO reporting tool.

  • Create a new eBay account specifically for VeRO reporting purposes, separate from your regular buying or selling account.
  • Submit a notice of claimed infringement, including the user ID you have created
  • Send the infringement notice to eBay at the designated email address provided ([email protected]) for VeRO reports.

Once the platform reviews and verifies your claim for copyright infringement, your new user account will be granted access to the VeRO reporting tool.

You will receive further instructions on how to report infringements directly through the VeRO tool.

In cases of potential copyright infringements, you may consider submitting a notification under the DMCA.

This involves sending the notification to eBay’s designated agent and including the following details:

  • Description and identification of the copyrighted work: Clearly describe or identify the copyrighted work that is being infringed upon. Provide specific information to help establish your ownership of the intellectual property rights.
  • Location of the infringing material: Specify the exact location or URL where the infringing material can be found on eBay’s platform. This will assist in locating and addressing the infringement.
  • Authorised representative’s signature: Include an electronic or physical signature of an authorised representative who has the right to act on behalf of the copyright owner. 
  • Contact information: Provide the email address, physical address, and phone number of the copyright owner or the authorised representative. This allows eBay to communicate with the appropriate party regarding the infringement claim.
  • Statements from the copyright owner: Include statements from the copyright owner affirming the accuracy of the information provided in the notification. Additionally, state that there is a good faith belief that the materials in question are not authorised by the owner and are, indeed, infringing on the copyright holder’s rights.

By submitting a DMCA notification with these essential elements, you can take appropriate action to protect your IP rights on the said platform and ensure that unauthorised use of your copyrighted work is addressed.

Understanding the Outcome of Listings Removed under the eBay VeRO Program

When a listing is removed from the platform due to a VeRO complaint, the owner of the listing will receive a notification email explaining the reason for the removal.

The email will also provide contact information for the rights owner who made the complaint.

If the owner of the removed listing has any questions or concerns regarding the removal, they can reach out to the rights owner directly.

It is recommended to contact the rights owner to seek clarification or discuss any potential resolution. In some cases, the following situations may arise:

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Unavailable Contact Information: If the email provided in the notification email is not accessible or unavailable, the member can contact eBay directly for further assistance.

No Response from the Rights Owner: If the member has reached out to the rights owner but has not received a response within five business days, they can contact eBay for guidance and support in resolving the issue.

It is important for all eBay sellers to ensure that their listings only offer authentic items and that the descriptions do not infringe upon the rights of others.

Respecting intellectual property rights is a fundamental principle that sellers must adhere to in order to maintain a trustworthy and compliant selling environment on eBay.

Taking Appropriate Action When Your eBay Listing Is Removed

Discovering that your eBay listing has been removed due to a copyright infringement claim can be a disconcerting experience.

However, there are several steps you can take to address the situation effectively and work toward a resolution:

Exercise Restraint: It’s important not to hastily relist the reported item(s) without seeking approval from the VeRO participant.

Repeatedly relisting can potentially lead to further removals and potential repercussions for your account. Patience is key during this process.

Contact eBay’s Support: Reach out to eBay’s customer support team to gain more insight into the removal.

Request the contact information of the VeRO participant who reported the infringement. Remember, eBay’s role is to facilitate communication and enforcement based on the VeRO participant’s decision.

Engage in Direct Communication: Take the initiative to contact the VeRO participant involved in the complaint. Communicate respectfully and inquire about the nature of the infringement allegation.

Seek clarification and offer your perspective on the matter. Establishing open lines of communication can pave the way for potential resolution.

Provide Evidence and Seek Resolution: If you firmly believe that your listing does not infringe upon the VeRO participant’s rights, gather evidence to support your claim.

Present your case clearly and professionally, emphasising your compliance with eBay’s policies. Propose viable solutions to address the concern and request the withdrawal of the complaint.

Legal Consultation: If the situation remains unresolved and you believe that your business has been unfairly affected, you may choose to seek legal advice.

Consulting with a legal professional who specialises in intellectual property matters can provide valuable guidance and insights tailored to your specific situation.

Maintaining a comprehensive understanding of intellectual property laws and eBay’s policies is crucial for successful selling on the platform.

To avoid potential infringement issues, conduct thorough research on branded items and familiarise yourself with eBay’s VeRO Participant Profiles.

This proactive approach can help safeguard your high-quality listings and minimise the risk of copyright violations.

Consequences for Sellers Violating VeRO Policies

When sellers violate VeRO policies by infringing on intellectual property rights, various actions may be taken by eBay to address the issue.

These actions are aimed at ensuring compliance and protecting the rights of intellectual property owners.

Here’s an overview of the consequences sellers may face:

Selling restrictions: Sellers who violate VeRO policies may face selling restrictions. These restrictions can range from specific limitations on certain listings to broader restrictions on their selling activities.

These measures are implemented to prevent further infringement and encourage sellers to comply with the policies.

Suspension from the site: In more severe cases or for repeated violations, sellers may face a complete suspension from the eBay platform.

This means their account will be temporarily or permanently disabled, prohibiting them from engaging in any selling activities on the site.

Refunds for fees: Depending on the circumstances and the seller’s history of violations, sellers may be eligible for a refund of the fees they paid to list an item on eBay if the listing was denied due to an infringement complaint.

The refund amount may vary based on eBay’s policy and the specific details of the case.

Listing re-upload and amendments: Sellers cannot simply re-upload listings that have been deleted due to infringement. However, if the violation is limited to the description, photographs, or text, sellers can make the necessary amendments to comply with the rules and then re-upload the listing.

It is crucial for sellers to understand and adhere to VeRO policies to maintain a compliant and respectful selling environment on eBay.

By doing so, sellers can avoid potential consequences and build a trustworthy reputation within the eBay community.

VeRO Participant Profiles on eBay

As an active participant in the VeRO program, you have the opportunity to create a dedicated page on eBay’s platform that provides valuable information about your intellectual property rights.

This VeRO Participant Profile serves as a resource for users and potential infringers, offering essential details related to your IP rights.

Here are some elements you may consider, including:

Consequences of infringement: Clearly outline the potential consequences that individuals or businesses may face if they infringe upon your intellectual property rights. This can help raise awareness and discourage unauthorised use of your protected property.

Products, IP rights, and company information: Showcase your products, the intellectual property rights associated with them, and relevant information about your company.

Provide a comprehensive overview that helps users understand the significance and uniqueness of your offerings.

Contact information: Make it easy for users to reach out to you with any questions, concerns, or inquiries regarding your intellectual property rights.

Display your contact information prominently on the VeRO Participant Profile to encourage open communication.

Tips for avoiding infringement: Offer helpful tips and guidelines to eBay users to ensure they understand how to avoid infringing upon your protected property.

Educate them about the proper and legal use of your intellectual property, promoting a respectful and compliant selling environment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Anticipate common questions and address them in an FAQ section. Cover topics such as licensing, permissions, authorised usage, and any specific guidelines relevant to your intellectual property rights.

By creating an informative and comprehensive VeRO Participant Profile, you can effectively communicate the importance of your intellectual property rights, clarify any misconceptions, and establish a strong foundation for the protection and respect of your IP on the eBay platform.

Tips to Avoid eBay Copyright Violation 

To help sellers avoid copyright infringement on eBay, here are some valuable tips to keep in mind:

  • Use your own original content: Create your own product descriptions, images, and videos. Avoid using copyrighted material without permission, such as images or text from other listings or websites.
  • Respect intellectual property rights: Familiarise yourself with copyright laws and respect the rights of intellectual property owners. Understand what constitutes copyright infringement and ensure that your listings do not violate these rights.
  • Obtain proper authorisation: If you are selling branded or licensed products, make sure you have obtained the necessary authorisation from the rights holder or brand owner. This includes obtaining permission to use trademarks, logos, and copyrighted materials associated with the products you are selling.
  • Conduct thorough research: Before listing a product, conduct research to ensure that it does not infringe on any copyright or intellectual property rights. Check for trademarks, patents, and copyrights associated with the product to ensure you are not unintentionally infringing on someone else’s rights.
  • Be cautious with replicas and counterfeits: Avoid selling counterfeit or replica items, as they are likely to infringe on intellectual property rights. Selling such items can lead to severe consequences, including account suspension and legal action.
  • Consult legal advice if uncertain: If you have any doubts about the legality of selling a particular item or using copyrighted material, it’s wise to consult with a legal professional who specialises in intellectual property law. They can provide guidance and help ensure that you are operating within the boundaries of the law.
  • Familiarise yourself with eBay’s policies: Take the time to understand eBay’s policies regarding intellectual property rights and copyright infringement. Familiarise yourself with the VeRO program and guidelines to ensure you are in compliance with the platform’s rules.

By following these tips, sellers can minimise the risk of copyright infringement on eBay and maintain a trustworthy and compliant presence on the platform.

Remember, respecting intellectual property rights is not only legally important but also crucial for fostering a fair and ethical marketplace.

Conclusion

eBay takes the infringement of copyright seriously.

It’s crucial for everyone in the eBay community to understand and respect copyright rules to ensure a fair, safe, and trustworthy marketplace.

FAQs

What happens if I accidentally sell a counterfeit item on eBay?

If you accidentally sell a counterfeit item on eBay, it is important to take immediate action. Remove the active listing as soon as you become aware of the mistake to prevent further infringement.

Communicate with the buyer, apologise for the error, offer a full refund, and assist with the return process.

Cooperate with the platform if they contact you regarding the counterfeit copies, providing all requested information and cooperating with their investigation.

How can I confirm that the item I’m selling on eBay doesn’t infringe?

Research its authenticity, review eBay’s policies, consider professional authentication, and provide accurate descriptions to ensure compliance with intellectual property rights.

When eBay could potentially be held liable for contributory infringement?

eBay, a giant Internet Auction house, may face liability for contributory copyright infringement when it fails to comply with a trademark violation.

This occurs when the alleged infringers continue their activities on the platform, despite receiving an infringement cease and desist letter.

In such cases, eBay’s failure to take appropriate action can be seen as contributing to the infringement, potentially exposing the platform to legal consequences.

It is crucial for the platform to promptly address and mitigate trademark violations to avoid being held liable for contributory infringement.

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