Where can the little guy turn?
- George Ziemann didn’t have delusions of grandeur when it came to selling his band’s CD.
He just wanted to promote the album — and hopefully sell a few copies — on a higher-traffic site than his own. So he turned to eBay, the Net’s largest marketplace.
But the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a law meant to limit people from distributing content illegally over the Internet, foiled him.
The reason? He used recordable CDs (CD-Rs) to distribute his albums.
The discs allow people to record data files — music and movies for instance — and they are often used to record and sell pirated wares.
As a precaution against enabling thieves to sell stolen merchandise on the site, eBay launched its Verified Rights Owner program, which allows copyright holders to send eBay take-down notices for auctions that violate copyright laws.
The problem in Ziemann’s case, he said, is that he’s selling his own music.
The mistake occurred when eBay employees swept the site for illegally posted materials. On two occasions, the company mistakenly identified Ziemann’s album — which was advertised as a CD-R — as infringing on somebody’s copyright, said eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove
David Steiner, president of AuctionBytes.com, an online auction news service, said this type of thing often happens to smaller auctions, despite the fact that Ziemann appeared to own the music he was selling.
“There is a lack of communication at eBay,” Steiner said. “If one person received an e-mail, they might deal with the problem. The problem is, it doesn’t get logged, and if another e-mail shows up, another customer service representative starts the whole process all over again.”
Less than three weeks after he started his first auction, Ziemann received the first of what would become an endless string of notes — sometimes from actual staff members, but more often in the form of auto-response e-mails — telling him his auction had been shuttered because somebody had fingered him as a thief.
Over the next month, he tried to find out who had fingered him and what he could do to get his auction back up. The constant back and forth eventually soured Ziemann — who runs a website and retail service from his home — on eBay altogether.
“We no longer have any interest in selling our product there. Ever,” Ziemann wrote in an e-mail.
With media companies upping their online enforcement of copyright law, cases of mistaken identity like Ziemann’s could be on the rise. Again, eBay would not comment on its policing policy, but several companies scour the Internet looking for copyrighted materials. The movie industry uses Ranger Online, said Steiner.
The recording industry has employed several search companies, including Media Enforcer and BayTSP.