If you had any doubt about America’s national priorities, consider this: Yesterday’s bomb scare has become today’s copyright violation.
Earlier this week Boston authorities were busy calling in the Department Homeland Security over some mysterious looking circuit boards. Everyone involved was certain they were bombs that would be detonated as part of some evil plot to prevent the Red Sox from winning another World Series. Just days later someone (we’re still not quite sure who) is apparently claiming that eBay auctions offering those very same circuit boards are a copyright violation. The path from terrorism to piracy is a surprisingly short one.
Given the fact that hundreds of signs were hidden in at least 10 major cities, it should come as no surprise to anyone that they’re starting to turn up on eBay. What is surprising is that anyone would consider their sale a violation of copyright. Copyright protects the right to copy (hence the name). By all accounts, the signs that are being auctioned are authentic.
By Friday afternoon there were over a dozen active auctions listing the Mooninite LED signs. Bidding started at $200 and quickly rose to over $400. At least one sign had a buy-it-now price of $1999.
Then something strange happened. By late Friday afternoon the signs began disappearing. An auction that Medialoper linked to early on Friday was shut down by eBay. In place of auctions offering authentic Mooninite signs “just like the ones found in Boston”, are several auctions offering replicas. Presumably the sellers are claiming the originals to be replicas in order to avoid having the auction taken down by eBay. The only problem with that line of reasoning is that, if the signs in question are replicas then they are also copyright violations.
But wait, there’s more. One auction claims to offer the real deal, but with no photo of the sign. The seller claims that his earlier auction had been pulled for a copyright violation, so he’s now auctioning the same sign, but he’s afraid to post the picture with the auction for fear the item will be pulled again.
From the auction:
Any pictures and all other trademarks** have been eliminated from this auction and this has been relisted from earlier due to copyright infringement policies from eBay.
** Per ebay, “[a] trademark is a unique sign (such as a name, word, phrase, logo, or symbol) that a company uses to identify its products and/or services.”
Someone at eBay has this all backwards. The originals are fine to sell, while the copies are copyright violations.
Given the fact that the signs look like they were constructed as part of a middle-school science fair project it’s entirely possible that the market will soon be flooded with replicas. I envision an army of teenagers with soldering guns whipping out knock-offs Mooninites at a frantic pace. You can almost hear the youth of America collectively muttering, “screw the paper route, this’ll buy me that Wii so much faster”.
But there’s a bigger question in all of this that ties the two parts of this story together. If we’re really worried about Iran building an Atomic bomb, can’t we just have the copyright holder send a cease and desist notice to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? That’ll teach him a thing or two about how democracy works.
In the meantime, here’s a video from one of the sellers. He says the auction was pulled for “promoting illegal activity”.