eBay Thinks Sandra Bernhard Is A Pirate!

How does eBay tell if you’re a pirate? Your peg-legged swagger? Your use of arghs as punctuation? The foul-mouthed parrot crapping on your shoulder?

It’s pretty much a mystery. It certainly doesn’t seem to have anything to do with actually selling pirated merchandise. And eBay just won’t come clean on what their arbitrary policy on identifying sellers as pirates actually is, as reader Aaron D. recently discovered.

Aaron D. isn’t a pirate, but he does sell CDs and DVDs on eBay. He assures us that these are all completely legal and authorized. But eBay arched an eyebrow at him over a live Sandra Bernhard CD that he was selling, printed on a CD-R.

Counterintuitively, that CD-R is actually legit: Sandra Bernhard sold it to Aaron herself. But when Aaron explained that to eBay, they responded by yanking all of his other auctions, then canceling his account when he tried to set it right.

Argh, mateys, after the jump!

I recently opened up my very first ebay seller’s account. I also opened up a paypal account. I have heard all of the bad things about ebay and paypal, but I figured the bulk of what I was selling was going to be sold for minor duckets, so if it all blew up in my face I wouldn’t lose out too badly.

I listed approximately 40 different CDs and DVDs on ebay. A day into my listings, I recieved an email from ebay. They had taken down a Sandra Bernhard CD I had listed, claiming that it was an “unauthorized copy”. (See below copy of their final email for explanation as to what that means.) I understood how they could experience confusion about the item: Bernhard produces most of her live concert CDs herself and sells them at her shows and on her website. They are basically CD-R’s with silkscreened fronts and home-printed inserts.

I emailed the “Trust & Safety” department back explaining this, and stating that I would relist the item, but that in the item’s description I would make it unflinchingly clear that the item was NOT a bootleg or unauthorized copy, but was an original CD as made and sold by Bernhard herself.

Three days later I recieved two emails from ebay. One was a list of 11 CD’s up for auction which had been cancelled, again for violating the “unauthorized copy” rules. THIS TIME every single one of the CDs was a store-sold, factory-manufactured compact disc. The second email, which you can read below, informed my that my account had been cancelled because of my repeated violation of this policy.

As I’m sure you know, ebay provides no resource to try and work out issues of this nature aside from emailing them. If you try to call via telephone you are taken to a recording that tells you to keep emailing.

So what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to PROVE to ebay that the 11 CDs they alledge were bootleg or pirated copies are NOT?! I emailed ebay and told them point blank that the items in question were NOT bootlegs, and asked them what it was in my listings that made them think otherwise? They told me that they couldn’t tell me what it was about my listing that made them suspect they were bootlgs, because doing so would allow me to re-list the items and circumvent putting in phrasing that would “tip them off.”

So basically I’m screwed. I didn’t do what I’m accused of doing, ebay insists I did, and they have NO RESOURCES to allow you to prove that you’re in the right. I emailed “Trust & Safety” and said I would be glad to make an MPEG video of myself holding up all of the CDs, front and back inserts and front and back of the discs, to show they were store-sold silver discs, and they never wrote back.

Ultimately the last laugh is on ebay, because I took my business to amazon.com and over the last two weeks I ended up selling about 120 CDs for $1000+! So screw you, Ebay.

And the email they sent Aaron:

Unfortunately, your eBay account has been suspended for a minimum of seven days due to a violation of the eBay Unauthorized Copies (Copyright) policy.

eBay prohibits unauthorized copies of media (such as software, video games, music, television programs, and photographs). Unauthorized copies include (but are not limited to) backup, pirated, duplicated, or bootlegged copies. It is both illegal and against eBay policy to sell unauthorized copies of copyrighted media.

We suspended your account after carefully considering each violation and verifying that the correct action was taken.

As a result of your suspension, all of your current listings have been removed from eBay.

You are not permitted to use eBay in any way during your suspension. You’re also not allowed to register a new account or use another existing account. Doing so may result in your permanent suspension.

During your suspension, you also won’t be able to do any of the following:

– Bid on items
– Sell items
– Leave or receive Feedback
– File for an Unpaid Item credit

Any remaining fees that are on your account are due immediately. These fees will be charged using the billing method that you currently have on file.

To have your account considered for reinstatement, please visit:


Thank you for your understanding.


eBay Trust & Safety

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