J K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter book series, is to sue eBay India over sellers hawking unauthorised copies of her books on eBay. Copies of her work has been sold as e-books on eBay India and action has been filled at the High Court in Delhi, India. Akash Chittranshi is representing J K Rowling and points out that under Indian laws eBay are equally as liable as the sellers. There is no comment however on any legal action being taken against individuals who have listed the e-books.
Rowling’s lawyers have already won a unique victory against eBay, an injunction has been placed which prohibits eBay from listing illegal copies of her work. eBay are now in the invidious position of having to comply with the injunction which will doubtless encourage other companies to expect the same. If they fail to prevent illegal copies of Rowling’s work appearing on eBay then they will be in breach of the injunction which is in place until the next court hearing on 23rd May, 2007.
eBay have long claimed to be “just a venue” unable to verify the authenticity of sellers products. The VeRO program allows IP Rights owners to flag counterfeit items and other unauthorised material which eBay removes when notified. The Rowling injunction orders eBay to bypass this process and actively police the site themselves. Additionally eBay are currently under pressure from sellers to examine the VeRO program, due to misuse by companies illegally trying to control the marketplace.
Once eBay start to successfully police the marketplace there will be numerous other companies demanding the same for their goods, the ruling could also have an impact on court cases with Louis Vuitton & Christian Dior in Europe and Tiffany in the US.
e-books have always had a poor reputation on eBay, and this will do nothing to assist the cause of the very few genuine e-book sellers with their own original material. I for one wouldn’t shed a tear if eBay took the decision to ban e-books entirely as other similar sites such as Tazbar have.