Ebay Liable for Fraudulent Sellers?

The French company LVMH has won a court case against eBay holding the internet company liable for some users’ sales of fake Louis Vuitton purses. The damages were $60.9 million. This is the second time eBay has been hit this year. Earlier, it was Hermès bags and only $31,600 was awarded. The International Herald Tribune’s bloggers note that the rulings could set a scary precedent for all internet commerce. Imagine if Craig’s List was responsible for verifying the accuracy of every post – or if Match.com had to ensure that its users were actually as funny and attractive as they claim in their online profiles.

Ebay, Amazon Marketplace, Craig’s List, and even Match.com are essentially smarter online versions of classified ads. They do not sell fake goods. They just have sites on which some individuals sell fake goods. Holding them liable for what others do is a dangerous move. Fourty-four years ago, the Supreme Court unanimously decided New York Times v. Sullivan, which stated (among many other important holdings) that a newspaper could not be held responsible for verifying the truth of what its advertisers printed. The same standard should apply to the internet. Hold those who commit fraud responsible for their actions. Don’t unjustly punish others.