EBay Sellers Can Be Sued

Can you be sued for attempting to sell products on eBay that were created by someone else who holds a copyright or trademark on those items? The answer is yes, depending on the copyright holder and depending on whether the items were copied illegally. Here are two examples of the sorts of legal morasses in which eBay sellers were embroiled in late 2002:

■ December 2002 The Motion Picture Association of America sued nine people in eight states for infringing copyrights by allegedly selling illegal DVD copies of movies. One seller, who allegedly sold 414 copies of pirated movies, said he had purchased them from Asian-based sellers on eBay.

■ December 2002 A group of Seattle-area knitters who sell yarn and knitting designs online hired a lawyer in order to fight back against legal representatives of Scottish knitting designer Alice Starmore. Starmore's representatives repeatedly had eBay sales canceled because they allegedly infringed on Starmore's copyright. Auctions were canceled that attempted to sell a tag from one of Starmore's skeins of yarn, and a seashell that was included with a shipment of Starmore yarns.

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