mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Friday, July 04, 2008

eBay versus the French...

A recent court ruling in France has eBay paying a large judgement for allowing the sale of pirated handbags on their site as well as for allowing sales of legit perfume through their site.

Anthony's never really liked the French, mostly because he nearly lost his scholarship in college thanks to his poor marks in French - although he does enjoy their fries and toast. As far as eBay, madanthony has had a sort of love-hate relationship with them - while I've made a decent amount of money selling stuff on eBay, they have made a number of changes (such as prohibiting sellers from leaving negative feedback) and keep raising fees, which has made me like them less (and to move some of my sales to hamfests).

The portion about the fake purses is debatable. eBay has done a lot to try to prevent it, and will pull auctions if they are reported as fakes by the company. They have a staff that goes through listings to find fakes, as well as automated software to fight it. The legal precedent here in the states on the subject says that places that enable the sale of pirated merchadise are liable if they profit from it and don't do anything about it, but it's difficult to say that eBay isn't doing anything.

In fact, on one occasion, I've run into the opposite problem - eBay pulled an auction of mine a few years ago for a new, in-box, sealed computer because I used the term "preloaded" when listing the software it came with. Even though "preload" is a standard industry term for software that ships with a computer from the factory (IBM/Lenovo even names their hard drives "Preload"), they decided I must have put pirated software on the machine and killed the listing. I sent them an email about it, and they just blew it off. Clearly, while eBay should make some effort to fight piracy on their site, if they are too trigger-happy they make it impossible to conduct legitimate business on the site.

The second part of the complaint - that they qualified to sell LVMH perfumes, which should be distributed only through selected retailers with trained staff is much harder to wrap my head around. In the US, at least for copy written works, the standard of first sale doctrine has said that people can pretty much do what they want with things after they buy it. Although it is in regards to copy written works, one would expect the standard to be even looser with physical objects. Once you own something, you should be able to do what you want with it, including sell it. A manufacturer should not be able to control the distribution of their product once it leaves their hands.

It seems incomprehensible to me that eBay and it's sellers are bound by sales agreements they never were a party to, that sellers can't sell stuff they own just because the company that originally made it would prefer that they didn't. The biggest problem I have is that LVMH is taking the "easy" path of suing eBay - and thus preventing legitimate commerce, as well as people who got items as gifts, from selling it. What they should be doing is going after the people who put it in the hands of eBay sellers in the first place - my guess is that if people are reselling LVMH perfume in big quantities, they probably got it from authorized dealers selling out the back door.

It would be interesting to see how this case would have played out if it was in the US rather than France.


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