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ebaY Tries Intimidation

24 Feb 2007

For all of you that are following the Vladuz story, TAG has commented several times on how ebaY seems to be expending more energy on keeping the information hidden from the public, than on doing anything about the problem. Here is some proof that this is so.

Though the various Vladuz threads on ebaY US and ebaY UK are removed promptly, for a while, the Vladuz threads on the ebaY DE boards were allowed to remain. TAG referenced those threads in some of articles on the TAG website, and back in Jan, when Vladuz visited the TAG website, he/she was made aware of those ebaY DE threads, and went there for a visit. Vladuz spent some time posting on the ebaY DE boards, and when those threads started to attract lots of international attention, ebaY shut those threads down also. What ebaY also discovered is that there is a German website named Falle-Internet that is providing information about fraud, and scams online and in particular about ebaY DE. There are also several threads about Vladuz on the site.

On 19 Feb 07, TAG received an email from one of the folks who is a contributor to the Falle site, and included mail that the company that hosts their server received from ebaY. An excerpt from the correspondence follows:

From: snoyce@ebay.com
We have just learned that your service is being used to violate eBay Inc.'s trademarks and/or copyrights. Specifically, it appears that a xxxx user is hosting a page at - http://www.falle-internet.de/de/html/pr_vlad.htm which uses our trademarks inappropriately.
While we believe that the above information gives your company more than a sufficient basis for disabling the page immediately, out of caution we note that your user's unauthorized reproduction of eBay's trademark and copyrighted materials violates federal law, and places an independent legal obligation on your company to remove the offending page(s) immediately upon receiving notice from eBay, the owner of the copyrighted materials. Accordingly, the information below serves as eBay's notice of infringement pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Section 512 (c)(3)(A):

I, the undersigned, CERTIFY UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY that I am the agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner of certain intellectual property rights, said owner being named eBay Inc. I have a good faith belief that the website located at URL http://www.falle-internet.de/de/html/pr_vlad.htm has its copyright in each page of its website and associated source code.

Please act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the material or items claimed to be infringing.

We sincerely appreciate your immediate attention to this important matter. We would also appreciate if you would take steps to confirm the accuracy of any contact information that your user may have provided to you in establishing the account. Should you have any accurate information that could assist eBay and law enforcement in tracking this individual, we greatly appreciate your assistance, as we know that you do not condone the use of your services for such criminal purposes.

Finally, please be advised that we have referred this issue to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their investigation. The F.B.I. has requested that we convey to you in this message their request that you preserve for 90 days all records relating to this web site, including all associated accounts, computer logs, files, IP addresses, telephone numbers, subscriber and user records, communications, and all programs and files on storage media in regard to all Internet connection information, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. ? 2703(f). While we do not act as an agent of the FBI in conveying this request, we do intend to fully cooperate with their investigation, and encourage you to do so as well.

Well, anyone receiving such an email would be bound to feel threatened, at least until they looked a little closer. Fortunately the server host receiving this intimidating email did not overreact and take the site down, but instead contacted the Falle folks. The Falle folks did take down the referenced page, but only until they could get more information from ebaY as to exactly what ebaY was objecting. There was nothing on the site that should have caused a problem, and nothing that was not also on the TAG site and other sites such as ebaY Motors Sucks.

On closer inspection of ebaY's threats, the whole thing looks foolish and silly. To start with, the FBI has no jurisdiction in Germany. In addition, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Section 512 (c)(3)(A) is a US code, not a German one. To our legally untrained eyes, it does not appear that ebaY has a legal leg to stand on, and TAG wonders if this letter would fall under intimidation and harassment by ebaY. What possible criminal activity Falle could have committed, remains a complete mystery to even a fervent imagination.

Another thing that happened to the Falle-Internet site, and also to the TAG site, is that both our sites are now showing up on various toolbars as fraudulent sites. The following image shows up if you go to the auctionguild.com site (and also the Falle-Internet site) and use the Opera browser and toolbar. It says, "This site has been found on Opera's blacklist of suspected fraud sites. Exchanging sensitive or confidential information with this site could put you at risk for identity theft and/or financial fraud."

Isn't it an interesting coincidence, that some mysterious organization has decided to report sites as being fraudulent that are publishing information that could have a negative impact on ebaY's stock price? Since the TAG site has been around since 1999, has never been designated as a fraudulent site before, asks for no sensitive information of any kind, and you don't even have to accept a cookie to use the site, how the folks at Opera can justify this warning, is beyond us. One assumes that they would need to get such a blacklist request from someone with influence, to blacklist a site without even checking the site in question.

We will try to contact Opera to see if they can get this reviewed and fixed, and would also greatly appreciate if any of you out there who use the Opera browser and toolbar, report to Opera that this fraudulent site designation is false and should be removed. Also, please check the auctionguild.com site the Falle-Internet.de site, and even the ebaymotorssucks.com site to see if they show up as fraudulent, using any other toolbars you might use, and let us know, and also let the toolbar site know that any fraud designation is false.