EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1003 - April 25, 2005     2 of 5

Wiley Takes a Page from Recording Industry in eBay Lawsuits

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Carlos is a student in Georgia who became interested in eBay in January 2005 to help make money to help pay for his college tuition. Several weeks after he posted a few items on eBay, he received a letter from Wiley Publishing that informed Carlos he was selling material that infringed Wiley's copyright.

The letter read in part, "On February 10, 2005 you offered for sale pirated copies of AutoCAD 2005 for Dummies; and eBay Bargain Shopping For Dummies; and again of February 17, 2005, after the initial auctions were removed by eBay, you offered for sale a pirated copy of 501 Website Secrets by Michael Miller." The letter said Carlos had infringed Wiley's copyright, and he would have to settle with Wiley or the company would sue him.

Carlos said that after panicking, he emailed Patrick Murphy, the paralegal at Wiley who sent the letter, to apologize and inform him that he had ceased selling the items. Murphy insisted that Carlos call him and refused to discuss the matter via email. A few emails went back and forth, and Carlos began researching copyright law. Then, he received another letter from Wiley stating their final demands: a $500 payment to Wiley before April 1, 2005. "They said I acted in "bad faith" since I did not contact them after their last email."

Carlos told AuctionBytes in an email, "By this time, I was fairly knowledgeable in copyright law. I wrote an email to Mr. Murphy telling him why Wiley's complaining should have stopped when I agreed to cease. He responded saying that I had two choices; either pay Wiley $500 or they would turn it over to an attorney for litigation."

Carlos says that while he was communicating with Murphy via email, the Wiley paralegal took a vacation.

"I still had some issues to discuss with Mr. Murphy," said Carlos. "However, he took his vacation, and when he returned, he immediately withdrew the settlement offer on March 29th. I took that as another intimidating gesture."

"I just want to be left alone, so I can concentrate on my studies," Carlos said. "I believe Wiley is just trying to get some money from me. The infringement was not willing and I have already complied voluntarily to cease, and I destroyed the material now that I am aware of the copyright. I am not even using eBay anymore after learning of all the mishaps in that community. I don't want to be a part of that."

On April 20, however, Carlos received a letter from Wiley's lawyers Perkins & Dunnegan informing him of a pre-trial conference to take place May 9 in New York. Carlos said he had not received a summons to appear, and had not been informed otherwise of the lawsuit. "I am currently investigating how this order was issued since I have not been served yet. I have not received anything else in the mail to date."

Carlos is looking for volunteer lawyers and said, "If I can't find one I will defend myself if possible."

Last Month, John Wiley & Sons Inc. issued a press release announcing it had filed 10 lawsuits "against individuals engaged in the unlawful sale of Wiley's copyrighted products on the eBay auction site" (http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-101310,newsId-2204.html). The company said two of the cases had already resulted in the issuance of default judgments in favor of Wiley in the amounts of $18,417 and $24,398.50 respectively. Default judgements are awarded when the defendant does not respond or show up in court, thus causing Wiley to win the lawsuit "by default."

In one of the lawsuits still ongoing, Wiley has filed a request with the court to issue a summons via email, because the defendant could not be located. "Due to the electronic nature of defendant's business, we propose to serve defendant via the e-mail address listed in his e-Bay profileā€¦"

The request to serve via email seems odd given Wiley's philosophy on using email to communicate legal matters. Wiley's legal representative, when insisting Carlos speak to him by telephone, wrote, "this is a legal matter, and I will not discuss it via email."


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 ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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