According to realitybasedcommunity.net, the Church of Scientology is directly pulling auctions for church related items by abusing the VeRO (Verified Rights Owner) program. This includes physical property purchased by former Scientologists, such as e-meters (a device used in CoS rituals), that should not be covered under any copyright or trademark laws. That report has also been picked up by Slashdot.
But every time [Bill] attempts to sell his e-meter on eBay, the listing is removed within hours by the Church of Scientology, which claims that the listing violates their intellectual property rights.
If you’re uninitiated to eBay, you’d probably think that for each of these removals, the Church of Scientology informs eBay of the violation of its rights, eBay considers the merits of their argument, and then only then does eBay yank the listing. But that’s not what happens at all. Instead, eBay effectively deputizes Scientology, which logs into eBay and removes the listings itself.
The VeRO program is a cost cutting measure by eBay. By allowing intellectual property owners to directly remove listings violating the DMCA, copyright, or trademark, eBay doesn’t have to have as large a staff to handle complaints from IP owners. In the case of physical property though, people do have a right to sell what they have previously purchased. Think about this. If you buy a book, sweater, car, or table lamp, you have the right to sell any of those items to someone else. What if Honda suddenly told you that you weren’t allowed to sell your used Accord? Same thing.
A google of this topic brought up a few other stories and blog posts relating to this over the last few years, so it’s not exactly new. But this should be pointed out again and again until eBay brings its policies in line with how the laws are meant to work. As the writer (Scott Pilutik) at realitybasedcommunity notes:
It’s possible to argue that Scientology is engaging in price fixing, tortious interference with a contract, misrepresentation, perjury, unfair competition, discriminatory business practices, and religious discrimination, to name a few off the top of my head.
If you’re interested in more analysis on this, you really should go read his full piece. On a CoS related note – Shawn Lonsdale, an opponent of the Church of Scientology, was found dead in an apparent suicide a few days ago. Rest in peace Mr. Lonsdale.