Re-selling items that infringe on copyright.
March 24, 2005 5:53 AM   Subscribe

Theoretically: what are the legalities of reselling something I bought off of a website which was later shut down for copyright infringement. The first example that comes to mind is about selling DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album on eBay. Would I get nailed for this, either by the men in suits or by eBay?
posted by michaelkuznet to Law & Government (15 answers total)
 
Is it legal? No. From what you describe, that would still be copyright infringement.
Would you get nailed for it? Who knows. Probably not if it's small enough and stays under the radar of those that *could* nail you for it (i.e. the copyright holder). I don't think ebay could do much except maybe cancel your account in the worst case.
From a practical standpoint it might be useful to consider the costs of the loot and the costs of suing you for copyright infringement. Costs of a CD (i.e. the "damage"): around 10$, for example. Costs of starting a lawsuit against you: more like 10,000$ in legal fees etc. See what I'm getting at? Except that this logic breaks down when the copyright owner wants to set a precedent or make an example case out of it and sues you anyway.

Needless to say, you should never buy or sell copyrighted material over the internet, simply because it's morally WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Go buy your muzick in a record store.
posted by sour cream at 6:12 AM on March 24, 2005


Needless to say, you should never buy or sell copyrighted material over the internet, simply because it's morally WRONG...

Unless you're the owner of the copyright of course.
posted by sour cream at 6:13 AM on March 24, 2005


I think you would get away with it on eBay if the copyright holder was A) obscure (ie - not Disney) and B) not a member of eBay's VeRO program (ie - not Disney.) It would likely pass under the radar unless the auction was specifically reported by someone aware of the infingment. You can probably judge the likelihood of this based on the popularity of the website you bought it from and the item itself. So it really depends on the item. Things like bootleg WWF merchandise don't last long on eBay, so if it's a grey market Hulk Hogan figure you're out of luck.
posted by fire&wings at 6:23 AM on March 24, 2005


If it's a real vinyl copy of the album, why is it your responsibility to make sure the samples were cleared properly?
posted by smackfu at 6:30 AM on March 24, 2005


Needless to say, you should never buy or sell copyrighted material over the internet, simply because it's morally WRONG, WRONG, WRONG

Well, that's quite wrong in fact. You are free to re-sell any legally purchased music, art, film, photography etc, under the First sale Doctrine, ragardless of who owns the copyright. (this is what allows records shops to sell used CD's, etc, and applies to digital copies, kind of.)

However, the Grey Album is a strange case, since where you got the album from doubtfully followed copyright procedure. Check out the link or more here.
posted by remlapm at 6:47 AM on March 24, 2005


I can see 9 copies of Danger Mouse's Grey Album currently up on ebay.com
posted by nthdegx at 7:03 AM on March 24, 2005


remlapm, you're quite right. Let me rephrase: you should never illegally download or upload copyrighted material over the internet.

I think another angle to the problem might be whether michaelkuznet was acting in good faith when he bought the stuff in question. That is, when you bought it, did you know that the material was infringing someone else's copyright? Or did that occur to you only after the seller's website was shut down?
posted by sour cream at 7:33 AM on March 24, 2005


Your were not aware, were you michaelkuznet, that the web site had even been shut down. You had every reason to expect that the album which you purchased was legal to own and transfer. Isn't that correct sir?
posted by Megafly at 8:04 AM on March 24, 2005


If you have to ask if it is copyright infringement, it probably is.
posted by trbrts at 8:12 AM on March 24, 2005


The whole album was available for free, on purpose, by the artist. For you to sell it instead of distributing it freely makes you a grade-A dick.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:04 AM on March 24, 2005


Needless to say, you should never buy or sell copyrighted material over the internet, simply because it's morally WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Go buy your muzick in a record store.

Huh? Tell that to Steve Jobs.
posted by bshort at 9:40 AM on March 24, 2005


As someone who has been VeROed by eBay (long story [it did NOT involve copyright infringement at all, though, just products Sony doesn't appreciate being used with their equipment], let's just say I have a lifetime hate for eBay now and will never sell anything on their site for the rest of my life [ok, perhaps I'm lying...]) VeRO works on a three strikes system. Three strikes and you get to talk to the hand for 1 month (it takes 1 month for eBay to respond to emails -- I managed to shorten that to 3 weeks by calling the eBay president... yes, even the president has no control of the company... pathetic). Of course, what do you expect for a company that receives a BBB complaint DAILY for years on end and never does anything about them?

Note that even if you list say three of the same items at the same time and they are all VeROed you'll end up screwed as well.

So, basically, don't sell anything on eBay that has a brand name on it, or does anything useful, is what I'm saying. Reserve eBay for selling head shaped grilled cheese sandwiches.
posted by shepd at 11:08 AM on March 24, 2005


as shepd says (you have to read between the vitrol :) eBay will cancel an auction at the slightest request, it's very irritating and you have no worthwhile recourse. If you list DirecTV sat equipment, for example, the slightest mention of decoding signal will get a cancel request from Hughes and eBay will kill it. Same exact product with no mention of that (even if it's something that nobody but an 'experimenter' would want) will survive.

Some months ago they cancelled a listing for what I would consider art covered under fair use was cancelled - a U2 special edition ipod modified to comment on the U2/Negativland legal fight from years ago. How repainting an iPod box and throwing in other legal extras is infringing is beyond me, but eBay killed it and refused to let it back.

Meaning, anything obviously infringing will be cancelled just as quick, if not quicker.

As far as legal trouble, however, odds are you'd have none unless it was a high profile kind of thing. The company's enforcement people can send out a request to eBay to kill the auction and they'll dance like monkeys on a string. Meeting more stringent legal standards takes time and money and why would they bother?
posted by phearlez at 12:16 PM on March 24, 2005


The whole album was available for free, on purpose, by the artist. For you to sell it instead of distributing it freely makes you a grade-A dick.

The album was also issued on CD (not CR-R) and vinyl. Some collectors want this. I'd bet most of the bidders already have the mp3's.

I don't think there's anything wrong with selling the CD-R. (Ethically, that is, not whether ebay will allow it.) I can imagine scenarios where someone can't download music, or prefers not to. So they pay for the service, materials and packaging, not the music. Nothing wrong with that, as long as the seller doesn't misrepresent the goods.
posted by hydrophonic at 12:41 PM on March 24, 2005


Heehee, thanks for the responses guys. It really *was* a theoretical question, and the Black Album *was* just an example. Anybody feel like doing a study that correlates the "theoretically" tag with number of times the original poster is called a dick? :-P BTW, I'm pretty sure that I saw the Black Album offered on pressed CD on a DJ-oriented site.
Go Figure. Anyways, I feel like I have a better idea of whats going on- thanks again.
Cheers,
MK
posted by michaelkuznet at 5:49 PM on March 24, 2005


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