Did You Buy Stolen Merchandise?


Did You Buy Stolen Merchandise?

– by Jim Edwards

© Jim Edwards – All Rights reserved

In a recent article, I wrote about how owners of ebooks,
software, CDs and other intellectual property can keep from
getting ripped off through online auction sites such as eBay
and Yahoo auctions.

By popular request (a slew of emails), we’ll now discuss how
buyers can avoid receiving stolen, “pirated,” or
“bootlegged” merchandise via online auction sites.

Nobody wants to knowingly receive stolen merchandise and the
following tips should help you avoid trouble.

Digital downloads such as ebooks, MP3 audio files, and
software represent the easiest products to sell illegally on
an auction site.

The seller obtains a copy of the file, puts up an auction
listing, and then delivers the file to the successful
bidder(s) via email or website download.

Because it’s so easy, that’s where many people start their
lives of online crime.

Unfortunately for the buyer, this can lead to hot water with
the rightful product owner.

** Smart Buying Tips for Digital Download Products:

First, if the person you’re buying the product from didn’t
create the product (they aren’t the author), immediately
become skeptical.

Do a little research on the author, name of the ebook, and
any other information you can find out (Google.com makes a
great starting point).

See if you can find where the author is actually selling
resell rights to their product and, if in doubt, contact the
author to see if others have permission to sell their
product at online auctions.

Second, when you see an auction with verbiage such as
“Attention eBay Staff: I have full resell rights to this
product” get suspicious.

The only reason someone puts that on their auction is if
they’ve gotten shut down before or they’re worried they will
get shut down if anyone notices them.

A real business person doesn’t need to place such a
disclaimer on a legitimate auction.

Third, check the seller’s feedback. Sometimes, the rightful
owner of the ebook or software will purchase the product
being sold illegally and then leave negative feedback
advising people not to buy from that seller.

** Physical Product Purchase Tips:

Illegal CDs and DVDs represent one of the biggest illegal
sellers at online auctions when it comes to music, software,
movies and educational courses.

An excellent rule of thumb: if they are selling more than
one copy (or have held more than one auction for the same
product) you need to dig a little deeper.

Ask the seller how they came into possession of more than
one copy, especially if it’s an expensive software package
or educational course.

Also, ask if the advertised item is an original. If it’s a
copy, steer clear and do not buy it.

Another warning sign involves a seller with multiple
quantities of never-been-opened merchandise selling for
pennies on the dollar.

For example, someone selling 20 brand-new Dell computers
that regularly go for $1,500 with a “Buy Now” price of only
$200 should raise your suspicions.

If you suspect someone of selling stolen merchandise or
illegally selling downloadable products, report your
suspicions to the auction service immediately via their
support link.

Nobody wins when seller theft on auction sites goes
unreported and unchallenged.

Jim Edwards is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the
creator of an amazing course that will teach you step-by-
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  • Doug

    March 22, 2006

    I never thought of the “attention ebay” thing before either, as I have used it. I thought it was required because ebay tells you state or show that you have resell rights. I personally have hundreds upon hundreds of ebooks and software products with resell rights that I have gotten thru many venues. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head exactly where I got them, as I have renamed folders, moved files, etc etc… But everything was obtained legally thru purchases and memberships. I have tons of products from Henry Golds 117 Gifts Giveaway, The 10 Days of Winter Giveaway, Surefire Wealth membership, Shawn Casey’s Mining Gold Program, and the list goes on and on.

  • Doug

    March 22, 2006

    ooops, hit “post” instead of “preview”.. so anyways, what are we supposed to do, send a copy of every license to ebay? post it on each auction? I just want to stay with the boundries of ebay’s rules and the resell rights rules. I only post items that specifically in the license that they CAN be sold on auction sites. Some licenses strictly forbid it, while others don’t say you can or can’t, so it’s a gray area there.

    Well, I just wanted to clear up a fact to your statement about being wary of someone who posts the “Attention Ebay” notice on their auctions. I’ve never been shut down, I am not a thief, and I have never had a problem with ebay, and that’s what I am trying to avoid. Any suggestions??

  • Simon Harrison

    March 22, 2006

    I think you have two issues here.

    One is that the “Attention Ebay” message is often used by legitimate ebayers but also equally used by scum balls and secondly that how you view the “attention ebay” message can be almost entirely down to why your visiting ebay and whether your in the e-book business or not.

    If somebody in the business of selling e-books sees that message it really smacks of trying to overprove a point. Why would you need to tell somebody you own it, if your selling it, then of course it’s yours to sell.

    However if you dont’ sell the item being sold, whether it be a e-book, dvd etc, and your just a casual purchaser I don’t think the message comes across as dodgy, simply informative.

    I can say that I have had some ebayers put our entire sales copy on ebay along with our product and a big ‘I own the rights to resell this product” message, so it is catagoricaly used by thieves, the only problem is it’s also used quite innocently as well.

    As to the effcicacy of the ‘attention ebay’ message in increasing trust/sales etc, I personally have no idea, I’m not a big ebay users (other than getting listings removed) perhaps these ebay ‘gurus’ did some split testing and found it to be a worthwhile addition to an auction listing.

    In responce to Christi, myself personally I have often left negative feedback THEN got VERO to remove the auction, but only when it’s quite clear the seller is going all out to steal other peoples property as opposed to them having one sole ebook in amongst a ton of other usual items, when it’s the latter I just get VERO to remove their listing.

  • Gary

    March 22, 2006

    Hi Jim,

    Just wanted to say that I disagree with you on some of your points in your March 21, 2006 article; “Did You Buy Stolen Merchandise?”.

    The first item that I disagree with is the point that you made; “A real business person doesn’t need to place such a disclaimer on a legitimate auction.”

    I strongly disagree with this. I have had numerous auctions closed on me by eBay when I had the documentation that proved that I was the original author of the book I was selling! By proof I meant the paperwork that I have showing that I hold the original copyright as filed in Washington, DC. When you have THAT information available it helps, but there are so many people on eBay with more time on their hands than anything else that simply love to go around and complain about people and their so-called illegal auctions.

    To me, what you are saying is just as valid as my saying to you, “If you need to put a statement on any of your reports that this material is copyrighted and you have all rights to this product:, then I should be very suspicious of you because no real business person needs to place a disclaimer on their real product.

    The second item that I wish to disagree with you on is: “Physical Product Purchase Tips: Ask the seller how they came into possession of more than one copy, especially if it’s an expensive software package or educational course.”

    The reason that I disagree is that there are quite a few products that I sell where I have the original Cd or DVD and the documentation to prove that I have full rights to make as many copies as I wish to sell. When I make a copy is this not in fact my offering an original product?

    Other than those two points I really enjoyed your article, but I do feel that they (points) can make a lot of problems for some real genuine auction sellers.

    Thanks for letting me vent my spleen.


  • David

    March 22, 2006

    Gary, I agree with the first of your disagreements. However, about the second one, all Jim said was to “dig deeper” and “ask” the seller how they came into possession of multiple copies.

    He didn’t say to boycott or immediately report the auction as fradulent. I can’t see how asking presents a problem for anyone.

    - David

  • Annette

    March 23, 2006

    WHOA! Jim, How can you be So Very Wrong!!!!? about so many many things??

    Blasting so many many innocent people and telling people so many things that just are NOT true!

    For starters, now with eBay’s new Digital Delivery program, all sellers with anything digital, (not just ebooks, but anything that is delivered over the Internet) MUST put a disclaimer, i.e. “Attn: eBay:” and explain whether or not they are the author, copyright holder or have resale rights to the item. In fact, if you Don’t put that there, is when eBay will shut you down. Point one of many errors in your article.

    If you are the rights owner, then all you have to do is use the VERO program or first, and preferably, contact the seller, because, hey, maybe he bought it from someone who sold him the “resell rights” to it, and so he legitimately thinks he really Does have the right to sell it! After all he bought the “resell rights”!

    After all, now a days there are so many thousands of ebooks out there that DO have resell rights and have been sold over and over and over again that who knows where it really came from and who owns the copyright? (see Doug’s post above) It’s called viral marketing and unless you’ve protected your copyright in some fashion (primarily by never giving resale rights out in the first place and making that clear in the copy of your text-protected ebook) then people assume it is public domain.

    So the best thing to do is contact the seller first (because the odds are that he is an innocent victim too) and explain that you are the copyright holder and the book he is selling does not have resell rights and he would probably be shocked, surprised and apologetic and remove it from sale. If not, then you have found yourself a true thief and can report them to VERO or the appropriate authorities.

    Point three: I agree with Gary wholeheartedly. Isn’t it the wholepoint of copyright that the owner of the copyright has the “right to control the manufacture and distribution of the copies” of his work?

    Also when people sell multiple
    quantities of never-been-opened merchandise selling for pennies on the dollar, it often is clearance, closeout or similar merchandise. After all, eBay is a “dumping ground” for many, many businesses, wholesalers, surplus and salvage dealers to try and recover something out of what would normally be a loss. Many Powersellers and even some smaller sellers will buy pallets or even truckloads of merchandise from these clearance places to sell on eBay.(Just look at the contents of some of these eBooks we’re discussing, many of them tell you how to do just that!)

    Fourth, Please… good grief! If you are the rightful owner of the work, why would you buy the item just to leave negative feedback? That sounds like a two-year old. Nyah-Nyah-Nyah. When I see that kind of whiny crybaby garbage, it automatically turns me against the person leaving it. If you are really the author there are real actual adult methods you can take to resolve the issue. VERO, lawsuits; legal courses of action, not playground vengence.

    What you’ve done here, is because you got your fingers a little toasted and a bee in your bonnet, is to use your position, mailing list, ability to put up a webpage and “influence” to spread misinformation and inaccuracies. Then you’ve gotten up on your virtual soap box to encourage people to go out and form a virtual lynch mob against auction sellers (95% of which are innocent people just trying to make a little extra money to make it from paycheck to paycheck).

    Yes, I agree that nobody wins when seller theft on auction sites goes unreported and unchallenged. But first, you’ve got to make sure it is legitimately theft and then challenge it in the right way and in the right channels.

    If you suspect someone of selling stolen merchandise or illegally selling downloadable products, report your suspicions to the auction service via their support link. But only after doing your research. Too often, MUCH too often, eBay and other auction services jump to assume guilt first and then never even bother to investigate later. If you are wrong when you report someone, you could really do some irreversible damage.


    I hope you use your position to stop, slow down and rethink your rash suggestions you put forward here. Don’t advocate and push people who may not know any better into doing something that they should regret later. Next time, please do your research, before you start venting.

  • Doug

    April 1, 2006

    Great post Annette, thanks for the backup! There are WAY too many “fake gurus” spreading misinformation around the ‘net without having someone try to attack your legitimate auctions or online business. You hit the nail on the head. People NEED to do research BEFORE they spread “information”. There a whole lot of them that need to learn what “spellcheck” is too! Nothing turns a person off more (at least in MY case) than getting a salespitch in email or on a website that is full of spelling mistakes. Why would I want to buy something from someone who cannot clearly and accurately convey their message and product to me?

    Annette, I think maybe YOU should write an ebook or a blog yourself, you seem much more knowledgeable and literate than most of these supposed “gurus”.