Since many of our members use eBay as a primary selling site, we work hard to stay abreast of trends in eBay policies. One of eBay's more aggressive programs, VeRO, started out as a way for eBay to keep scammers off their site, but it has been evolving in a troubling way, and eSources members tell us that sellers can be negatively affected unless you are well aware of its requirements.

Consequently, we have created this article series about eBay's VeRO to help you stay on the right side of the Owner's Rights issue. Our eleven Parts eBay VeRO article series will help you understand what VeRO is, who the major players are, what's at stake, how to avoid a VeRO problem, what to do if you get into trouble, and how to fix serious problems such as suspensions or PayPal complications. Our first article in the series gives you a little bit of background information on VERO and how it all got started.

How VeRO Got Started

eBay's VeRO program or “Verified Rights Owner” program was established in 1997. The program was created so that eBay could position itself to be in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DCMA, which was fully implemented in 1998 in the United States.

The DCMA essentially holds site owners responsible for illegalities that occur on their sites, e.g., copyright infringement, fraudulent merchandise, slander and so on. However, if the site owner establishes policies and procedures that 1) prohibit any actions, language, images or merchandise that break laws 2) inform all users about the rules for proper usage of the site; 3) provide a mechanism for violation reporting and 4) immediately removes any material deemed to be in violation of DCMA, the site will not be responsible for copyright infringement. This opportunity for protection is known as a “safe harbor.” The VeRO program is eBay's means of legal compliance.

The VeRO program provides the opportunity for manufacturers, software developers and other rights owners to file a Notice of Claimed Infringement (NICO) with eBay. The act of filing a NICO claim automatically registers the claimant with VeRO. There are currently over 28,000 registered rights owners associated with EBay. Click on http://pages.ebay.com/help/community/vero-aboutme.html to find a complete list of companies registered with the VeRO program. The list includes everything from Microsoft and Adobe to Chanel and Nike, plus industry organisations such as RIAA (recording industry association) and MPAA (motion picture association). Most of the companies are in the software, media or fashion industries.

The VeRO program grew out of a legitimate business need to be sure that the eBay site is correctly policed for violations. This program also protects legitimate sellers from unfair competition from knock-off artists and other scammers. Unfortunately, its rules are so substantially in favour of Rights Owners that the program can either be a real help or can act like a witch hunt waged against not only sellers who are truly violating the rules, but also against innocent, law-abiding eBay sellers who have been victimised by the program and suffered significant financial hardship as a result.

In Part II of our VeRO article series, we'll show you how the program works, and why legitimate sellers can get caught in the VeRO web without cause and with few options for correcting the situation.