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  • Copyrighted Items

    How do you know if you might be violating somebody's copyright when you are making, selling or buying an item? To find out, look at the guidelines listed below. This information is not intended to be legal advice, but we hope it will help you trade safely on

    What is a Copyright?

    A copyright is the legal protection given in the United States to original works of authorship, including books, paintings, images, music, video, software, etc. Copyright protection attaches to a work the moment it is fixed in tangible form (on paper, on video, etc.) and prevents others from exploiting the work without permission.

    Copyright is a Bundle of Rights

    A copyright actually is a bundle of rights, which includes the exclusive right to distribute, sell, duplicate, publicly perform and create derivative works from the work. The length of copyright protection for older works is often difficult to determine, but for newer works these exclusive rights last at least 70 years, depending upon whether the author is a person or a company. The fact that a work is old doesn't necessarily mean that the copyright on it has expired. Until the end of the term of protection, a copyright owner has the right to sell, transfer, assign or license one or all of his exclusive rights to someone else. Unless a copyright owner has given you rights, you may be violating copyright laws by copying or selling an item.

    Selling vs. Giving Away an Item

    Copyright protection includes the exclusive right to distribute or sell the copyright work. This usually means that giving away a copyrighted work (for example a copy of a videocassette) is not permitted. Thus, selling a pencil for $5.00, and including for "free" an unauthorized videocassette copy would probably be an infringement.

    Copyright Registrations and Markings

    In the United States, it is no longer necessary to register a copyright to enjoy copyright protection, although you may have to register your copyright if you want to file a legal action concerning your copyright. It is also no longer necessary to place a � on the copyrighted work, but it is a good idea to do so. The absence of a � doesn't mean its okay to copy the work without permission. Guideline:

    Most recently created original works (movies, books, music, software, etc.) are protected by copyright at the moment they are created. If you didn't create a work yourself or get permission to make and/or sell copies of it from the copyright owner, it is probably a copyright infringement to make copies and sell them on

    Here are some examples of potentially infringing items:

    � A copy of a "cult classic" documentary that you taped off of PBS even though PBS hasn't aired the documentary during the past ten years

    � A copy of the latest summer blockbuster that you recorded on a digital camcorder while sitting in your local movie theater

    � A compilation of hundreds of old arcade games on one CD-R capable of being played on any home computer

    � A imagecopy of a popular book

    � A compilation of all of your favorite songs which you personally burned on your CD-RW drive

    � A scanned copy of a picture of a famous basketball player

    � A backup copy of the software presently on your home computer

    Resale of Copyrighted Works

    remember, just because you own a legitimate copy of an item does not mean that you own the copyright in the item. If your copy is genuine you probably can resell it on (There are exceptions to this rule for some computer software. You should check your software license or contact the copyright owners to learn of any restrictions on resale.) You can also probably show in your listing a picture of the item you are actually selling. However, you probably cannot make copies of the item and sell them on

    The Risks of Copyright Infringement

    If your item appears to be infringing it can be ended early by We do not permit the offering of infringing items and we may end them to protect our users and from potential liability. Click here to learn more about our procedures for ending items early. cannot give you legal advice, but offers these Guidelines as a general guide. If you have any doubts about whether you can sell an item on, we encourage you to contact the copyright owner or consult your own attorney.

    For More Information:

    Copyrights, TMs & Your Listing

    Faces, Names & Signatures

    Games: Sega/Nintendo/Sony

    Music, Movies and images

    Promotional Items


    For more information about copyrights:

    U.S. Copyright Office

    U.S. Copyright Law

    Findlaw - general law

    Avoiding Trademark, Patent and Copyright Problems (Franklin Pierce Law Center)

    FACE (Friends of Copyright Education)

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