Dos and Don'ts for Selling Digital Goods on eBay

How to Navigate the Confusing World of eBay Digital Information Sales

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We are all living and working in the midst of an information economy. Selling digital goods, —information, software, templates, recordings, art, and the like is an obvious business opportunity. But before you sell digital goods on eBay, there are a few important things to know. For instances, sales of things like MP3 music files or PDFs are treated differently than sales of physical items and eBay has some specific rules that sellers must follow.

What to Do to Sell Digital Goods on eBay

eBay considers any content that can be downloaded via a website or received via email as a "digital good." In order to sell digital goods on eBay, you must list digital items under the Information Products header in the "Everything Else" category. Your listing must also be in a classified ad format. Within your listing, you must state clearly that you are the legal owner of the content, or intellectual property as it's sometimes called, or that you are authorized to sell it on the owner's behalf.

The rules may seem strict, but they are in place for good reason. eBay's stated goal with these guidelines is twofold: protecting intellectual property owners' rights and protecting buyers from purchasing pirated or unauthorized items.

The Exception to eBay's Listing Rules

Existing, sizable digital goods retailers that already have a thriving business outside of eBay can apply for an exception to the rule for how digital goods must be listed.

Sellers must apply for this status, and comply with eBay's requests for information and documentation.

But be warned: Unless you already do significant volume on your own web store in digital goods, you have little hope of being granted an exception to be allowed to sell digitally-delivered goods through most eBay categories or listing formats.

What's Not Allowed When Selling Digital Goods

There are some big don'ts associated with selling digital products on eBay. Be sure to keep these in mind so you don't end up frustrated by a suspension or listing removal.

First and foremost, pornographic content is not allowed nor is software that could be used to damage someone's computer or infect it with spyware. You also cannot sell digital content that violates other copyrights (you can't sell a song you bought from iTunes, for instance).

Sellers of digital content also have to be verified by PayPal in order to confirm identity, but for the most part, if you created the digital content yourself and it does not fall into one of the "don't" categories, you can sell it on eBay.

Think Outside the eBay Box

Whether you're an existing or new eBay seller thinking about moving into information products, you may want to consider expanding your focus to include eBay alternatives as well. Digital sales are not likely to be a lucrative option on eBay, especially if you're just getting started. In fact, they may be more headache than they're worth.

There are plenty of other online retail platforms that are much more friendly than eBay to the sale of digital goods (in particular, music and ebooks).

Many are also more lucrative for sellers than eBay in this particular category. But the guidelines eBay has in place are a good primer on what to be careful about; selling digital content that doesn't belong to you is a recipe for disaster, no matter what platform you're using.