Image Theft on eBay Can Result in Suspension

Take your own photos of eBay items or use stock photos

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Selling on eBay involves a lot of steps, including taking photos of your wares or using stock photos of them. Accordingly, sellers might be tempted to take shortcuts to save time and effort. Using another seller's or manufacturer's photos, also called image theft, is against eBay policy and can result in removal of the listing and possibly suspension of your eBay account.

eBay's Image Policy States:

"When creating listings, members should write their own description and take their own photos. Buyers like to see images and descriptions that accurately represent an item they are purchasing. 

"If you use text or an image that was created by someone else be sure that you have permission to use the text or image from the rights owner or creator."

eBay's Product Catalog

eBay is trying to keep up with Amazon by making listing faster via implementation of the product catalog. In certain categories, such as books, DVDs and CDs, eBay has stock photos available in a product catalog. If the product is a media item and has an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), always try entering the number to see if a photo will appear.

If the item is in any condition other than new without defects, always add your own photos in addition to the stock photo. The goal is to have a professional looking gallery photo for as many items as possible to improve the buyer's experience and increase sales.

eBay wants buyers to see exactly what an item looks like before purchasing in order to make the buying experience as easy and flawless as possible.

 Don't use stock photos if they don't match your item. eBay wants listings to look as professional as possible so they are doing the leg work to provide stock photos and stock descriptions to help sellers speed up listing and to help buyers find the exact items they want.

Using Manufacturer's Photos is Prohibited

Although rampant on eBay, eBay does does not allow images copied from a manufacturer's website without express written permission from the owner or company.

Image theft from a manufacturer or brand's website is a big no-no and sellers can be sued for the unauthorized use of photos.

For example, if a seller is offering a pair of LL Bean boots and finds a photo of the exact pair on the LL Bean website, he may not copy that image and use it in his listing. Odds are that LL Bean (or any other company) is not going to grant eBay sellers permission to use their images. 

Many sellers, especially new sellers, assume it is acceptable to copy images from manufacturer's websites like Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor, LL Bean or others simply because they see other sellers doing it. Unfortunately, eBay cannot police image theft as well as it should. eBay users are encouraged to report listings using unauthorized photos so that the listing can be removed.

Using Other Sellers' Photos is Not Allowed

Image theft is more difficult when the item is rare, collectible or limited in number. Unscrupulous sellers will often steal photos from other eBay sellers to take a short cut. Again, this is not allowed. eBay wants items to be accurately represented.

If one seller uses another seller's photo of an item, it may not reflect the exact condition and that can lead to disputes, returns and ultimately gives eBay a bad reputation for selling items not as described.

Sellers must photograph their own items and describe them accurately to follow all eBay guidelines.

Using Images From the Public Domain

Although not expressly stated, it appears that eBay allows images from the public domain. By definition, an image is in the public domain if it was never under copyright or its copyright as expired. Examples include images of celebrities or athletes performing wearing specific clothing. There may be numerous photos of a world class tennis player wearing a specific outfit. The same image may be in USA Today, Sports Illustrated and on Getty Images with royalty free rights, meaning that copyrighted material can be used.

If a seller is offering an item and using images from the public domain with the celebrity or athlete wearing the item, she should always include her own photos of the item, with any defects or flaws noted, so the buyer will know exactly what he is purchasing.

Images in the public domain should only be used to enhance the listing and show the relationship to the celebrity or athlete. 

Bottom line -- don't copy stock photos from any website or from another seller. Image theft is a serious issue on eBay. You don't want to risk your account because you got sloppy or lazy.

Updated on May 4, 2016 by Suzanne A. Wells.