Stealing eBay descriptions
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Post Posted: Wed Nov 03, 2004 11:23 am 
 

** edit by FoulFoot: this topic was split off into its own thread **

For those prices you would think this guy
eBay listings
would at least write his own listing descriptions instead of copying it straight from TSR Archive
This Personal Web Pages (PWP) site has been discontinued

Is this legal?


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Post Posted: Wed Nov 03, 2004 11:54 am 
 

Not even close to legal.


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Post Posted: Wed Nov 03, 2004 11:59 am 
 

lol if it isn't I'm guilty, I steal all my descriptions but the condition/picture.

screw typing! copy/paste!

just don't steal darks descriptions he gets pissed lol, found that out the hard way  8O

I used to just go around grabing random module descriptions off completed items, then I started using the tsr thingy.  Their descriptions are not the same as back of book/module?

  

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Post Posted: Wed Nov 03, 2004 4:06 pm 
 

The legal way to do it is to credit the Acaeum. It's also the moral thing to do.


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Post Posted: Wed Nov 03, 2004 5:26 pm 
 

I noticed recently a couple sellers have stolen my "layout" and grading set up for my auctions.

They did not take my descriptions, but clearly adjusted the presentation to match my stuff. I checked their feedback to review other sales...and lo and behold their styles changed just after I started selling...

Flattering, yes...unethical, yes. :x


And I could've bought these damn modules off the 1$ rack!!!

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Post Posted: Wed Nov 03, 2004 5:40 pm 
 

bbarsh,

Just yesterday I noticed someone had done this to me as well.  They had even purchased an item from me about a month ago.  I could see they were new and I wanted to resolve this peacefully (I could report them to eBay, but I swallowed my initial indignation and wrote this very "nice" letter.)  It is kinda long and boring, but feel free to read it and, if you want, change some elements and use it for your own needs.  (by the way, the seller emailed me back and was very apologetic and promised to alter all future auctions).

The email I sent out:

Hi,

How are you doing?  I remember that you purchased a
Wrath of the Immortals boxed set from me back at the
end of September.  

 I was taking a look at your auctions and I noticed
something familiar. . . you have copied key elements
of my auction format and used it in your
descriptions.

I hope you do not think I am being a jerk about this,
but I must ask that you change future listings -  in
particular, you use the phrases:

"Check out the large, clear scans and judge for
yourself!"

"International bidders are welcome! Paypal only for
international bidders and be advised that insurance is
not available so you must assume all risk for
lost/damaged items - I can promise that the items will
be safely and securely packaged.

   * All items are SECURELY packaged and no items I
send will ever arrive damaged, bent, broken or harmed
in any way (unless UPS were to truly do something
horrific - like run it over!)

   * Almost all items are shipped the day after
payment is received. Every once in a while it takes me
two days."

Also, you use a modified form of my "Shipping
options".  Again, please understand, I have been
selling on eBay for almost two years and have
established my own selling techniques and listing
format.  I realize it is difficult starting out and
you are probably looking for a format that encourages
buyers.  I appreciate that you liked my listings enough
to use them. . . however, I must ask kindly that you
stop doing so in future auctions.  It is not fair to
me and further, it is against ebay policy.

Feel free to email me back - I must say once more that
I do not intend any animosity and hope that this issue
can be resolved simply and easily.  

You should know that ebay prevents copying another's
auctions format and since I can demonstrate auctions
going back for years with the same format, they would
cancel your auctions if I were to report this.  I have
no intention of doing so as long as we can resolve
this between us.  Again, please email me back - as far
as I'm concerned, this is a minor thing that can be
settled with no hassle.

Thank you -

Paul Tremiti


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Post Posted: Wed Nov 03, 2004 5:54 pm 
 

Hmm …

The descriptive text on the TSR and WotC products is the copyright of WotC, and I believe is fine to use by anyone for descriptive purposes.  You're not publishing an excerpt, but rather the public synopsis.  No one can take ownership of this.  (For example, I think the morgansurname debacle over MERP text was a little crappy.)

The descriptive text created by a website or an eBay user is the copyright of that organization or individual.  You are not supposed to use it without permission.  If you ask for permission, you may very well be declined -- the premise is that people put in honest work in their descriptions to increase their own marketability and reputation, not to have you steal it.  eBay allows for the cancellation of plagiarized descriptions.

Shipping options etc. -- this falls under the above if it's verbatim.  If it's modified, it's debatable, but should be credited unless you want an annoyed rival who would make a worthier ally.  If you insist on pushing it, currently it's quite easy for a years-established seller to end the copycatting of upstarts.  Not 100% moral, but easy.  Please recognize hard work where you see it, and if you admire it, do your own hard work that you can forever call your own.

Then there is the gray area of formatting -- that falls under "look and feel," and is very debatable.  I don't mind if my format is stolen, since I think large scans and a clearly delineated grading scale both assist the collector community in making fair transactions and informed decisions.  And everyone has their own format and grading scale.  I personally recommend, at the very least, crediting who you're taking the format from.  Especially if it's a website.  Note that this refers to format, not to content (see above).

IANALBIPOOTV etc.
:P

  


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Post Posted: Thu Nov 04, 2004 8:38 am 
 

darkseraphim wrote:The descriptive text created by a website or an eBay user is the copyright of that organization or individual.  You are not supposed to use it without permission.  If you ask for permission, you may very well be declined -- the premise is that people put in honest work in their descriptions to increase their own marketability and reputation, not to have you steal it.  eBay allows for the cancellation of plagiarized descriptions.

Shipping options etc. -- this falls under the above if it's verbatim.  If it's modified, it's debatable, but should be credited unless you want an annoyed rival who would make a worthier ally.  If you insist on pushing it, currently it's quite easy for a years-established seller to end the copycatting of upstarts.  Not 100% moral, but easy.  Please recognize hard work where you see it, and if you admire it, do your own hard work that you can forever call your own.

Then there is the gray area of formatting -- that falls under "look and feel," and is very debatable.  I don't mind if my format is stolen, since I think large scans and a clearly delineated grading scale both assist the collector community in making fair transactions and informed decisions.  And everyone has their own format and grading scale.  I personally recommend, at the very least, crediting who you're taking the format from.  Especially if it's a website.  Note that this refers to format, not to content (see above).

It always amazes me that people are so concerned about this, but I guess if it's your main business, it might matter.  (People have been "stealing" webpage layouts for years, that's how most decent web admins learned how things work.  This is also because web admins aren't usually a creative type, and often don't want to hire web designers/developers for their site.)

I am not a lawyer, but I recently talked to one for an entire five minutes whilst sipping alcohol at a Hallowe'en party.  So I am an expert, listen up!   :) (This can be taken as a desperate plea for a real lawyer to validate/correct me).

At what point is something copyright, or a trademark?  It has to be both creative and original.  

An item description is neither, it's a description.  It's not like you're writing a novel or other creative work.  You're using the English language as it was intended, for basic communication.  This is not original.  You can't copyright/trademark just anything you feel like, or I'd have copyrighted "0" and "1" and the entire internet would be MINE MINE MINE by now.

Beyondthebreach's tagline, "Check out the large, clear scans and judge for yourself!" is used for promotional purposes, it's creative & original and should probably be trademarked.  "International bidders are welcome!" is a common enough phrase that you'd never manage to successfully trademark it, much like Trump's laughable attempt at "You're fired!".  Ditto for a large chunk of the rest of his description.

Darkseraphim's grading scale could be considered under copyright, presuming it's creative and original.  I don't know just how "original" it is, and it has to be pretty damned original to win in court.

The Acaeum, on the other hand, is a creative colloborative project and is definitely subject to copyright.  It is clearly original, it is clearly creative.  It might be difficult to establish copyright due to the collaborative nature of the site, however.  I don't know.  The owner might need to have a waiver stating anything submitted belongs to him, blah blah blah.  (I may have to go back and look at the Acaeum FAQ/Rules/Whatever, you know, that stuff that every site makes you click on before you register).  You should definitely credit the Acaeum if you're making reference to it.  

I don't know (I haven't read, nor do I truly care) what eBay's take on all this is, as anything I'll be selling on eBay will be original, hand-typed stuff that probably won't sell.

I'm very upset when people "steal" other people's photographs/descriptions, however -- you should always show the actual item being auctioned, and look at what you're selling carefully to determine condition.  It's not about copyright, it's about care in selling your items.  When I see something lifted from another known seller/website, I presume the seller knows very little about the item, and generally bid lower/not at all.

 YIM  

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Post Posted: Thu Nov 04, 2004 11:01 am 
 

For me it is not a legal thing at all.

But it is irratating. Ethics do exist, though there seems to be plenty of people who think they are just talking points. By copying someones ebay style/layout a person is acting unethically. There is no other side or gray area to it. I am constantly taking the time to improve my layout and style, often through trial and error. To have someone come in and steal it then compete directly against me just sucks.

In the real world it is a bit more than unethical, it is unlawful. Intellectual property law is quite specific. Ebay, however, is another situation. It simply cannot be controlled with regularity. I seriously doubt ebay would do much unless it was a cut and paste job.


And I could've bought these damn modules off the 1$ rack!!!

New modules for your Old School game http://pacesettergames.com/

Everything Pacesetter at http://pacesettergames.blog.com/

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Post Posted: Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:34 pm 
 

Sometimes, I use just the back text as the description -- I have no problems with people swiping that.  Other times, I have personal recollections and recommendations -- "This is one of my favorite products because ABC, my players XYZ …" which, if any other seller steals it and uses it, they set themselves up as a liar, while at the same time making the origin of my personal comments suspect.  I sell primarily common modules and boxed sets, and I've spent over 200 hours scripting 250 pages of description templates, so I have a personal vested interest in them.  My rarity 1-2 auctions overall in 2004 have sold 53% higher than eBay average (10 samples taken, 100-150 items in each), and I pride myself on that.  It's also my livelihood.  So theft of descriptions is a big thing to me -- they're basically trying to steal money out of my pocket, which I tend to frown on when I have bills to pay.  I believe the content is both creative and original, otherwise it wouldn't work.

But a piece doesn't have to be "creative" in the artistic sense to be covered by copyright.  If I stole an editorial from the New York Times, changed the byline to my own, and posted the article on a high-traffic website as my own original work, you can be sure as hell that I'd have plagiarism action taken against me.  Hey, they're just using the English language for basic communication, right?
:wink:

Edit:  Found the relevant snips from copyright.gov.

>>>WHAT WORKS ARE PROTECTED?

Copyright protects "original works of authorship" that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works include the following categories:

literary works;

These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most "compilations" may be registered as "literary works";

WHAT IS NOT PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT?

Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources)

  


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Post Posted: Thu Nov 04, 2004 2:13 pm 
 

darkseraphim wrote:But a piece doesn't have to be "creative" in the artistic sense to be covered by copyright.  If I stole an editorial from the New York Times, changed the byline to my own, and posted the article on a high-traffic website as my own original work, you can be sure as hell that I'd have plagiarism action taken against me.  Hey, they're just using the English language for basic communication, right?
:wink:

Your example didn't really prove your point, but it was a good point all the same.  Taking someone's article and changing the title is not using the English language for basic communication, nor was I suggesting that it was.  I was suggesting that there was a "grey area" in copyright in determining what is "common usage" and what is "copyrightable".

Lemme try again with some obvious examples:

"The weather today is partly cloudy, with a 50% chance of rain."  -- Hardly copyrightable.  If this condition exists, everyone is going to describe it in the same fashion.

"The unsufferably wet, briny weather will persist for nigh upon another fortnight.  Take heed, O ye of little faith, for the Rain God cometh."  -- Ok, so the tone of the language aside, this is probably copyrightable, but such a poor job that I'll let anyone have it if they really want to use it.

Not creativity in the artistic sense, creativity in the sense that the author can claim to have uniquely "created" it.  Most eBay descriptions fall in between these extremes.

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Post Posted: Thu Nov 04, 2004 2:34 pm 
 

>>Your example didn't really prove your point, but it was a good point all the same.

I know, I was just being facetious.  Apologies.
:P

Truth be told, I don't think petty eBay auction swipes would hold up in a serious court - the case would either be ruled frivolous or couldn't be proven.  But eBay does allow the cancellations - not only because of the ethical underpinnings (which are valid), but also because big companies were refusing to use the site while competitors were stealing their IP to compete directly.  Annoyed companies = lost $, so they take the policy pretty seriously.

This is my last post on the subject though, since it really should be a tangent thread.
:oops:

  


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Post Posted: Thu Nov 04, 2004 3:04 pm 
 

darkseraphim wrote:>>Your example didn't really prove your point, but it was a good point all the same.

I know, I was just being facetious.  Apologies.
:P

Ditto.  :wink: I think the more resumé-worthy, politically correct term is "multi-faceted".

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Post Posted: Sat Nov 06, 2004 4:34 am 
 

bbarsh wrote:I noticed recently a couple sellers have stolen my "layout" and grading set up for my auctions.

They did not take my descriptions, but clearly adjusted the presentation to match my stuff. I checked their feedback to review other sales...and lo and behold their styles changed just after I started selling...

Flattering, yes...unethical, yes. :x


There are only so many ways to describe the same item; I learned this a few years ago when a fellow ebay seller tried to get most of my auctions yanked because I copied his descriptions...well, not really, since all we were both doing was quoting the D&D module descriptions from the back covers.  I was actually called by an Ebay fellow who was about to shut down my 200+ auctions, luckily I was home at the time and able to get online and direct him to the fact that A. We were both just using the same descriptions from the same items, nothing was original in the text; and B. Technically I had been selling on Ebay years longer than the other guy and if I wanted to be an ass I could have said that HE was stealing MY descriptions!  Once the situation was explained the guy realized he'd been had and nothing happened to my auctions.  
    I have had someone steal my exact layout several times, mostly on the Dragon and Dungeon magazines I sell (I have a specific way of describing and listing the contents that is very tempting to copy and steal, but also very obvious when it happens).  Both times that I can remember this happening an email to the person doing so stopped the action without myself having to go to Ebay and report anything, most people don't even realize they are doing something wrong.

Mike B.

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Post Posted: Sat Nov 06, 2004 11:12 am 
 

"I copied his descriptions...well, not really, since all we were both doing was quoting the D&D module descriptions from the back covers."

Well, I think that if someone uses short statements such as a descriptive paragraph stating the wording used by the item itself, so as to describe the CONTENT of the item, then no one other than the TRUE original author of the item could possibly prevail in any action to stop the copier.....

What I think you may be trying to state is that your way of presentation is original and so should be protected. Perhaps so, but the content of the item itself when borrowed by you and then used by another later, then that wording should not be protected for your use alone.

  
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