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eBay's VeRO
Verified Rights Owners Program

Last Updated January 16, 2010

Why VeRO?

One would expect any business to protect its source of revenue. For some businesses, this means a secure product source and loyal customer base. For others, those who provide services like eBay, protecting the sellers from umawarrented attacks. For eBay, who has no physical product, the source of revenue radiates from the sellers.

When Congress enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"), it was looking to avoid some of the copyright protections concerns about on-line use. Since the computer age was introducing new problems for the holders of trademarks and copyrights, Congress decided to help them out. The result was more clout for unethical corporate lawyers to use to shut down and intimidate lawfully operating small businesses. How did Congress do this? By creating a "safe harbor" provision that protects site hosts, like eBay, from infringement liability if they followed the putlined procedures.

Almost every hosting web site has something similar in structure to the eBay VeRO Program. These programs are designed to take advantage of the "safe harbor" protections provided by federal law. Most sales oriented hosts like eBay, Etsy and others, are more afraid of lawsuits than protecting the rights of their sellers. It is this fear that directs their actions. Few actually take a proactive stance and investigate the claims made against the on-line sellers. Most prefer the ostrich approach.

Originally, Ebay set up their Verified Rights Owners ("VeRO") Program to allow the legitimate owners of copyrights and trademarks to terminate auctions in accordance with the DMCA. The VeRO Program takes it name from the false notion spread by eBay that the rights owners are "verified". Right. Not now; not ever. All one has to do is register with eBay and send them a signed document stating they claim rights. eBay does not "verify" anything. In fact, we know of only one VeRO member who has ever been legally attacked by eBay for false takedowns and that was only because the VeRO member tried to pass the blame along to eBay as a third party in a lawsuit. Now, eBay offers the seller no options for restoring terminated listings if the reason given was for anything except alleged copyright infringement. Rather cowardly of eBay but bravely CYA.

The administration of the VeRO Program is badly flawed and regularly misused by the VeRO members. eBay knows it is abused and eBay really does not care because the main purpose of the VeRO program is to cover eBay's ass, not to protect anyone. One reason it is flawed is because eBay refuses to take any responsibility for its actions. We recognize that there are MANY fakes being sold on eBay. Ironically, it does not take much to recognize these fakes. And eBay contributed to the problem of counterfeits by aggressively recruiting and promoting the China addition to the auction website. What concerns us is not the legitimate application of trademark and copyright laws but those who abuse these rights in the name of protecting their business image or perceived rights. Some companies simply do not want their products sold on eBay (such as Fleurville). Some companies seem to believe you cannot use a picture of their product when selling the item. Some people actually believe they own an idea because they "first" thought of it. These are not lawful reasons to terminate auctions because these are not intellectual property rights. But eBay does not ask and it could.

This page outlines the DCMA and the VeRO Program. The purpose is to better warn you what they can do and what you can do in response. Some bloggers have posted the statement that "99% of the VeRO program is aimed at stopping fake brand-name goods or pirated media" from being sold on eBay. WRONG. It is there to prevent eBay from being sued by trademark and copyright holders and it is poorly administered by eBay.

One study claims that up to 30% of VeRO-terminated auctions are bogus or questionable. 5% should be considered to be unconscionable but the eBay lawyers who conducted the VeRO seminar in Las Vegas at eBay Live in 2006 contended that there very few VeRO abuses. They pointedly avoided directly answering questions about how eBay was going to stop these "few abuses" while insisting they did not exist.

Even when confronted with proof that the seller was not infringing, eBay will not take any actions to restore the rights of the seller and eBay will not take punative actions against the VeRO member.

The eBay VeRO Program allows eBay to comply with the DMCA. What is does not do is make any attempt to protect the seller from fraudulent auction terminations. Sellers are paying the eBay listing fees and commissions - not the VeRO members! Yet eBay has no procedure for reporting fraudulent takedowns nor does eBay seem to care to investigate. eBay has a large number of staffers that monitor listings and yet it appears it cannot afford one staffer to investigate fraudulent VeRO claims?

It's amazing how many VeRO members swear under penalty of perjury that an item is infringing only to change their minds when slapped with a federal lawsuit. eBay keeps score of how many times a seller has auctions terminated but not how many times a VeRO member backs off. WHY THE HELL NOT?

The VeRO member is not required to state why the item is infringing, only that they believe it is infringing. As far as eBay and their lawyers are concerned, the seller is guilty until proven innocent. Even when the only evidence is only the "word" of the VeRO Member. Even when the law states the VeRO member has no rights. eBay tries to make as easy as possible for the VeRO member to terminate listings while making as difficult as possible for the seller to oppose the takedowns.

To our knowledge, eBay has never taken any action against a VeRO member for fraudulently terminating an auction.. We are willing to bet it happens every day but eBay doesn't fear being sued by the sellers so Ebay does nothing to the VeRO abusers. In 2007, because eBay was dragged into a court fight where Innovate! Technology was a defendant and VeRO Member, eBay countered by claiming Innovate! Technology has filed hundreds of false takedowns. Yet, not once in the court filing did eBay say it was going to rescind any suspensions caused by the "alleged" false takedowns. If eBay wants to correct this statement by us, they can email us with documentation and we will post it.

There are a lot of articles out there about eBay and the VeRO program and most of them are negative. We've gathered a bunch of them for you to read if you wish. One of them goes into detail about how eBay lies to users about user information and how eBay will disclose all kinds of information about a user without regard for the user agreement. Click Here to read the articles.

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