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eBay update

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on November 26, 2004
(Issue 2248, Fact or Fiction?)

A couple weeks ago, we looked at an experience I had with eBay in which Sun Microsystems was able to end an auction I was having of some old copies of Solaris I no longer used simply by filing a copyright infringement claim.

At the time that previous column was written, I had been unable to find a way of filing an appeal of the auction's cancellation.

However, in a fit of frustration, I later hit "reply" to the automated e-mail from eBay notifying me of the cancellation – and the automated response to that e-mail included a link to file an appeal.

So I followed that link, and filed an appeal – explained that I was simply selling legally purchased software that I had uninstalled from any and all computers and no longer had a use for.

An eBay representative sent a nice e-mail explaining why they have set up their copyrighted works program (to protect themselves from liability). They also said they had forwarded my complaint to the Sun Microsystems representative and that I should hear back from Sun within three business days.

Never did hear from Sun, but eBay wanted to know if that happened as well. As this is being written, I've let eBay know that Sun never followed up.

I'll let you all know how this proceeds. I did suggest to eBay that they might want to make it easier for those of us accused of copyright violations to appeal before our auction is cancelled.

Regardless, I want my name and account cleared of any wrongdoing.

Son of eBay

eBay now owns PayPal, the leading online electronic payment service.

So dominant is PayPal that Yahoo! Auctions has added PayPal to its payment options for its own auctions – and, since we looked at eBay and alternatives to it two weeks ago, Yahoo has stopped accepting new accounts for its competing PayDirect service.

But just as eBay's market dominance had made it a virtual monopoly of online auctions, so is PayPal's market dominance giving it a monopoly-like arrogance.

In September, PayPal announced it would no longer accept transactions for online gambling or sexually explicit items.

The online gambling policy makes some sense, in that it is illegal in most of the United States (or maybe all of it now; that's a policy area of such flux that it's tough to keep tabs on).

But the "Mature Audiences Policy," as PayPal's Web site puts it, is pretty vaguely worded. What if you want to purchase a medical book on human sexuality? Would that be banned? A painting of a nude? An Erica Jong novel?

And since PalPal has, as mentioned above, pushed most of the competition out of the way (eBay shut down its own Billpoint service once it bought PayPal), what other options do consumers have if they run afoul of PayPal regulations?

There are competitors to PayPal out there, although you have to snoop around to find them.

One place to keep track of them is on the PayPalSucks site. This list seems pretty up to date, and is probably as good a place to find out your options as any.

eBay competition

As mentioned two weeks ago, I decided to move some of my auctions to Yahoo auctions. The only problem was that instead of getting hundreds, or at least dozens, of page views per auction, I was getting a couple. Didn't sell anything, either – just not enough traffic.

So I'm back on eBay for now, simply because that's where the numbers are.

There are other auction sites out there, though. Finding them isn't much easier than finding PayPal alternatives, however.

Outside eBay and Yahoo, ubid is probably the biggest. While it doesn't have the breadth of categories that eBay has, and seems more focused on electronics and computers, ubid has a clean, well-organized site and lots of items to choose from in its rather limited category list.

Another good site is It is well designed, easy to navigate, and seems to have a good selection of items to bid on. Whether it draws enough potential buyers, it's hard to say. is a good site for finding stuff; it seems more geared to retailers, however, than to small sellers like your or I, meaning it's not really a replacement for eBay.

Finally, has an auction site now at It might have the most depth of any site outside eBay. has its own issues as a semi-monopoly, but it does have the size, clout and reach to go head-to-head with eBay.