EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1014 - May 10, 2005     3 of 7

Wiley Sends Copyright Message to eBay Sellers through Lawsuits

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Book publisher John Wiley & Sons sued a number of eBay sellers in the first months of 2005, in part to get the message out that selling Wiley e-books on eBay is illegal, according to Wiley's spokesperson. In one lawsuit, Wiley sued a college student, Carlos Velasco, who posted several auctions for Wiley e-books. The student and Wiley could not reach a settlement, and Wiley filed a lawsuit against Velasco on April 5, 2005.

Wiley claims the infringement was "willful," while Velasco continues to claim it was not, and tens of thousands of dollars may be at stake depending on what Judge Berman of the United States District Court in New York rules. It appears that ignorance of a copyright violation does not affect a defendant's guilt in copyright cases; however, willfullness does matter when it comes to damages.

Wiley's Legal Director Roy Kaufman said Velasco was notified that his two auctions were in violation of Wiley's copyright when eBay removed them. Kaufman said Velasco listed a third auction after he received the eBay notice, proving willfullness. Kaufman did not have a copy of the letter eBay sent to Velasco, but Velasco acknowledges the auctions were removed by eBay. Wiley spokesperson Susan Spilka said the company does not normally get copies of the "VeRO" notices.

Kaufman expressed dissatisfaction with eBay's VeRO program, which allows copyright, trademark and patent rights holders to report violating listings that it will remove. Kaufman said if a company files a VeRO complaint against an eBay seller for a listing, that seller can generally relist the item. "eBay may or may not take away their privileges," he said. "There are cases where eBay closes violators' account, and they simply open a new account and keep selling. If all you do is VeRO them, many people don't stop."

It's not unusual to hear both eBay sellers and VeRO participants express dissatisfaction with the VeRO program. eBay sellers are often confused and frustrated when auctions are removed by eBay, and VeRO participants are frustrated that counterfeit and pirated items continue to be sold on the site.

Velasco told AuctionBytes Wiley had offered to settle for $500, but he thought it was excessive and he didn't have that much money. Wiley's Spilka told AuctionBytes freelance writer Mark Lewis last week that Wiley had been prepared to offer Velasco a settlement offer of $250 if Velasco had engaged in a settlement discussion. (Velasco wanted to hold settlement discussions via email, Wiley insisted on a phone dialogue.)

Spilka had said last week the "ship has sailed" on the $250 settlement amount, but Kaufman said Wiley is still prepared to settle the case with Velasco. "We feel we have tried to settle although (Velasco) did something wrong," Kaufman said. "If Carlos wants to settle, he can call Mr. Dunnegan of our outside law firm. We never cease discussion or rule out settlement. We prefer to settle."

A pretrial conference in the lawsuit against Velasco is scheduled on June 3, 2005 in New York.

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

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