Not often I am gobsmacked…

Have a look, if you will, at the eBay auction below (the listing has been taken down so I have put several screen shots instead). Notice anything?

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Well, the first thing one would notice is that the photograph is of a pocket Filofax, whereas the auction claims to be selling a mini. [Before the listing was removed, there was a live link above to the auction itself which showed two photographs – one pocket and one mini. I am not sure who owns the photograph of the mini but I have removed it from the screen shot above out of respect for the owner’s copyright ]

The next thing one would notice is that the featured photograph comes from this post on Philofaxy, and belongs to Steve Morton.


The third thing one would notice is the description, and below that the note.

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The note reads as follows:

NOTE TO BIDDERS/WATCHERS I am being forced to end this listing early and re-list it. This is because the first image (showing a filofax on a pine coloured table) was copied and pasted from google images. I was then contacted on ebay by a filofax blog owner (I’ve never seen the blog before – and yes someone clearly has too much time on their hands) demanding that I remove the image. Extremely unreasonable given the fact this is in no way an attempt to infringe their IP rights and was just used for illustrative purposes in order to save time when originally listing the item for sale. As the item currently has a bidder (many apologies to you!) ebay settings won’t let me delete the stock photograph. I am therefore re-listing the item but only using my image of the item as taken on my iphone on 04/02/14. Thank you for reading this message and apologies for any confusion caused. You can find the item again by looking at all the items I’m currently selling.

The irony of the fact that she was not actually selling her Filofax but Steve’s, seems to have completely escaped her. Or the fact that doing a Google image search, copying, pasting and uploading Steve’s photograph probably took longer than taking her own photo and uploading it would have. Or that if she was using it for illustrative purposes only and it was not the one she was selling, she should have made that clear to her buyers. Particularly as the one she was selling was another size entirely and much smaller than the one in Steve’s photograph.

Right, so if you think that is rude you should see the contents of the eBay message which she sent to Steve when he wrote to let her know that the photo belonged to him.

I have seldom seen such insolence and arrogance – not to mention a total lack of knowledge about intellectual property law and how Google images works. She was apoplectic at having her entire evening wasted by a person she felt was so stupid as to feel that her using his image was wrong.

She explained rather rudely that it was perfectly acceptable for her to use Steve’s image because she found it on Google images (the mind boggles at how she thought it got there in the first place). She was utterly astounded that someone actually found out she was using said image. And felt that Steve’s completely unreasonable behaviour caused her to lose a sale. Naturally she did not express it quite so politely. The only way to describe the tone of her letter was abusive. I have been rather gentle in my description above but I was flabbergasted at the content of the message and how she spoke to Steve. None of which really comes across here but out of respect to the seller I am not going into detail.

It shocks me that nowadays people feel that Google is an enormous website full of free information and photographs which appear out of nowhere and don’t actually belong to anyone. Or that copyright does not apply to anything on the internet. Probably the same people who feel that being anonymous entitles you to be as rude and cruel as you want to be because no one knows who you are and if it is on the internet it doesn’t matter.

What makes me most cross is that Steve Morton is one of the kindest most generous people around. He has built an entire community to which he willingly gives his time and with whom he generously shares his expertise. He organises competitions, awards, meets and is admin for about 15 Facebook groups. He is always at the other end of a post, a comment or a personal message to advise, commiserate or encourage.

Even worse, there is no way you can report abusive messages like this to eBay. Apart from writing a letter of complaint to them and including a print out of the message. There seems to be no other recourse if you are harassed in any way.

So for me it was important to write this article to show my displeasure with how he was treated. If anyone agrees with me, please re-Tweet or reblog this to show Steve he has our support.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

14 thoughts

  1. I think her first mistake was not taking her own photo – I believe for used item listings the photo must be of the actual item. Being ignorant of other peoples’ work is almost laughable. The rudeness is just unacceptable.

    I have to admit to, on very rare occasions, using Google Images to find a picture for use with a new item I am selling, but often this results in me using a stock image provided by a manufacturer (who I assume are keen for people to be selling their products). I am aware of copyright laws and I would promptly take down any picture which received a legitimate request to do so. A loophole (not that I would use it as an excuse) is that Google Images presents images without the copyright notice that might be present on the page the image was found on, and people can swipe the pictures straight from here without visiting the original source. Putting a copyright label on the image itself is one tactic, but often quite simple to ‘photoshop’ out, I am sure, and it results in an image that doesn’t look so good.

    I’m currently concerned about ebay’s efforts to form a catalogue of products and photos (and blogged about it). One seller might upload a photograph they didn’t take, or have the authority to use, and ebay might add this to their catalogue for other sellers to use when listing the same item. Should ebay get into hot water over this I wonder if they would point the blame squarely on the original seller – it seems harsh when simple ignorance might be at play, if one can plead that.

    I also realise how difficult it is for website owners to hide their content from Google’s prying eyes.

    As a seller on ebay I once saw another seller using my picture. It was quite a shock, and I deemed it unfair because we were essentially in competition. I think I reported them because it was so obvious they had copied the image from my listing – an image I had taken time to create. Obviously I can’t complain too much if I’m someone who might use images I find on Google Images – I guess I can see both sides of the coin.

    1. Very interesting points Brian. I very often use stock photos of products and almost always link back to the company site or to the site where the item is for sale. As you say, I am sure it increases awareness of the product.

      I have in the past had some problems of my own – I bought an image from a stock photo site who did not have the rights to sell it so I had an irate photographer contact me.

      Another time I took a photograph at a dog show and used it but there was a glimpse of someone in the corner who was not happy about being there. Unfortunately for them, the photograph was taken in a public place so they had no recourse. I cropped them out but if I had refused they would have had no way of forcing me to.

      Another tricky area is Pinterest. I think people think that is also free photographs. I don’t mind my photographs being repinned on Pinterest but the thought of people passing them off as their own does bother me. As Steve often says, it is a very slippery slope.

  2. Completely appalled by such behaviour. Even if the person used the picture by mistake in the first place, she should have apologised once she was told what she had done. How can she be so arrogant and rude about the whole thing? Great that you posted this, Janet.

  3. I am also totally gobsmacked, Janet! It was totally unacceptable and it is too bad that the seller cannot be banned from eBay. That kind of situation gives honest sellers a bad name – one bad, all bad sort of thing! The fact that “this person” picked on “our Steve” (or anyone) is totally unacceptable. Was there more information on Twitter (reading Carol’s post)?

  4. It’s obviously escaped the seller’s notice that there is a good chance that her buyer, if there really was one, is a member of the Philofaxy community and is now well warned off due to her abusive attitude, Also that she’s possibly been saved from some negative feedback from any buyer receiving something not as described. What an idiot! Thanks for this blog post Janet, I’m just sorry I don’t have Twitter.

  5. So absolutely great to see someone like this seller get her comeuppance. I do hope she is aware of just how much ill-will she has created in the Filofax community.

  6. It is truly amazing how ignorant this person is with respect to intellectual property law. Indigence seems to vary inversely proportional to an individual’s understanding of the issues.

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