eBay to GoHook: Go Away! eBay Bars Site from Hosting Completed Auctions
By Ina Steiner
eBay has informed GoHook.com they cannot host completed eBay auctions on their site. GoHook launched last October with a service to help sellers store their completed auctions. GoHook downloads sellers' listings from eBay and other sites and stores them on GoHook.com servers in the same format they appeared on the auction sites. http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abu/y204/m02/abu0113/s03
GoHook sent a letter to customers Tuesday informing them the service was no longer able to host auctions "as a result of recent, friendly discussions with the licensing folks at eBay."
GoHook partner Robert Keller told AuctionBytes that eBay informed him GoHook was doing four things wrong: Storing completed auctions; violating eBay copyrighted material; scraping eBay data rather than licensing eBay's API; and commingling eBay data with data from other auction sites.
eBay rolled out a data-licensing program last year and has been limiting access to completed auction data on its site, including restricting access to registered users. http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abu/y203/m12/abu0109/s02
One GoHook customer said he believes eBay fears having a permanent record of auction data. "eBay does not want a permanent record of archived auctions whose questionable history would likely include thousands of illicit transactions including illegal auctions - bootlegged DVDs, fake artwork, etc. - and auctions that breach eBay's terms of service - Prohibited and restricted items."
GoHook believed they had the right to store the completed auctions because they had contracts with sellers, who gave GoHook permission to archive their own auctions. GoHook's letter to customers read in part, "GoHook is a small, entrepreneurial company in Southern California. We’ve neither the resources nor inclination to challenge eBay’s licensing claims. We cooked-up the idea of GoHook over coffee in mid-September 2003 and hosted our first auction on Halloween. We thought then, and still do, believe that storing completed auctions has value to eBay buyers and sellers."
In a somewhat similar case, eBay told auction aggregator Bidder's Edge to stop storing eBay auctions on the Bidder's Edge auction-search Web site in 1998. After negotiations failed, Bidder's Edge took out an ad in the New York Times, urging sellers on eBay to voluntarily add their listings to Bidder's Edge. eBay sued Bidder's Edge, and in 2000, a judge granted an injunction barring Bidder's Edge from using an automated system to search eBay on the grounds that it could slow the site. Bidder's Edge ceased operations in 2001 and settled the lawsuit with eBay.
Robert Keller says he has no desire to fight eBay and describes the discussions between GoHook and eBay as friendly. Keller said he is unsure if GoHook's business model would work anyway after receiving customer feedback.
"We're not weeping in our cheerios," Keller said about the decision to cease the auction archival service.
eBay spokesperson Hani Durzy said, "GoHook is not a certified developer. We have to have control over who uses the data and how they use it to protect the integrity of the site and protect our resources. We are working with GoHook so they can continue to provide a service and knowledge to their customers in a way that we are comfortable with and according to the guidelines eBay's put forth."
While Keller left the door open to remaining in the industry, he did not seem hopeful that GoHook could find a model that would satisfy customers, eBay's demands, and provide an attractive revenue model.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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