The BSA's hall monitors, hard at work
I bought myself a new 12" Powerbook at the beginning of the year as a delayed Christmas gift to myself, and it took me until May to get around to selling my old Powerbook Pismo. I put it up for auction on eBay and got a few solid bids right away, but I also received this unpleasant email from some software industry employee:
We assume you don't realize that all copyright protected software delivered with any computer (installed or on separate media) must include transfer of the user license (if any) to the buyer along with the original media (if any) and installation/registration codes (if any). If not, it is being advertised and sold illegally, both according to ebay user agreements and US interstate commerce laws. Single user license means installed singly used copy(s) on one user's computer(s) only. We strongly suggest that you review the information on and the references listed at the bottom of the following web page: http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/unauthorized-copies.html If you're the owner of the current licenses for the items that you say will be installed or provided without proper license transfer, we strongly suggest that you review the terms and conditions of your user license agreements for each item (you are violating copyright laws and your user license agreements and can be significantly fined and also liable for damages, lost income and recovery costs incurred by the intellectual property owners). If you are not the owner of the licenses for the software, then you are advertising and selling stolen software that represents a potential criminal offense. All previously installed software must be deleted from resale computers prior to delivery (if copyrighted and not including original media when available and transferring licenses). We strongly suggest that you modify your auction descriptions and notify any active bidders accordingly, delete any pre-installed software from the computers prior to delivery (if copyrighted and not including original media and transferring licenses), and hopefully avoid any similar future mistakes. We also strongly suggest that you review the following: http://www.bsa.org/usa/antipiracy/Types-of-Piracy.cfm In addition, educational/academic priced versions can only be legally sold to qualified buyers (students, faculty, etc.) and for some products can only be sold by authorized agents. There are many auction sellers who don't understand the legalities (or potential consequences) and have had auctions terminated, ebay privileges suspended (or terminated) and in some cases have also been contacted by software vendor (Microsoft, Adobe, etc.) corporate licensing investigators. Many online auction sellers know it's illegal and do it anyway (and continue to do it even after becoming "informed") in an attempt to get higher auction bids by selling pirated software. Sincerely, A Member of the Advocacy for Informed Computer/Software Buying and Selling
And yes, it was all crammed together into one paragraph, just like that, which made it not just unpleasant, but also bloody difficult to read.
A note like this makes me wonder if people who work in the old I.P. industries have become tone-deaf to just how odious their demands sound to the rest of us. Here I am selling an expensive, fragile product to somebody in another state who I've never met, so I'm nervous about his ability to promptly and he's nervous about whether or not the Powerbook is really in the shape I say its in. Since small gestures help in situations like this I've made sure to very specific about every small flaw, and I've also listed the software that's already installed on the machine.
Along comes somebody who's not at all involved in the transaction, who wants me to go out of my way to reduce the value of the product, not because it would help me or the buyer but because it would help him. Regardless of the legality involved, the whole thing feels like I'm being accosted by a really aggressive bum. And although you can make a case for the economic harm of software piracy, I can't imagine that the loss from individual sales of old computers is that large of a piece of the pie.
Anyway. I ignored the note and sold my Powerbook. (Before I shipped it I did erase my own data with some secure erase program, which benefits me and doesn't harm my buyer.) Money changed hands, feedback was granted, and life went on.