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Scientology Given Direct Access To eBay Database 684

Posted by kdawson
from the finger-on-the-scale dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Church of Scientology can delete auctions from eBay with no supervision under the VeRO program, and has used this to delete all resale of the e-meters Scientologists use. This is to stop members from buying used units from ex-members instead of buying from the official (and very expensive) source. Given Scientology's record of fraud and abuse, should eBay give them this level of trust? Will this set a precedent for other companies that want to stop the aftermarket resale of their products?"
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Scientology Given Direct Access To eBay Database

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  • short answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Romancer (19668) <romancerNO@SPAMdeathsdoor.com> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:50PM (#22478942) Journal
    Short answer, no.

    This is favoritism. Microsoft doesn't even have this ability to stop the resale of their software.
  • Is this legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by obstalesgone (1231810) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:51PM (#22478946) Homepage
    Is it, in general, legal to allow a vendor to prevent the resale of their product? I don't understand why this would be considered beneficial to society or why it wouldn't be considered monopolistic.

    Of course, I'm no lawyer, but I've heard that everyone on Slashdot is.
  • by superwiz (655733) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:51PM (#22478952) Journal
    It could be just the media frenzy making a bigger deal of isolated incidents than the real deal is, but it seems like the group is both paranoid and vindictive. I am more worried about them trying to use this as an opportunity to supress criticism than to use it to supress second hand resales. Although why one shouldn't be able to resell one's physical property in a free contry is beyond me.
  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:51PM (#22478954) Journal
    Do they just have the ability to delete sales, or do they also have access to the details of who's been bidding, selling, and buying?

    Yet another reason to not use EBay or PayPal.
  • by Digitus1337 (671442) <{moc.liamtoh} {ta} {sutigid_kl}> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:51PM (#22478968) Homepage
    "Given Scientology's record of fraud and abuse, should eBay give them this level of trust?"

    No.
  • Uh, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ack154 (591432) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:56PM (#22479050)
    I was under the impression this was exactly the kind of reason eBay existed. "hey, i don't use this junk anymore, what'll you give me for it?" If the "church" was really given this kind of power, that's just not right.

    Perhaps if they wanted to curb the resale of their devices, they should offer some sort of buy back program? They'll still turn around and sell them again and make a profit.
  • by mehtars (655511) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:59PM (#22479116)
    This action of preventing the resale of a product is illegal--- once I buy a device, I am free to resell it. For example an auto maker cannot force me not to resell a car.
  • by Knara (9377) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:00PM (#22479118)

    ...to stop using eBay to sell your used stuff.

  • by AoT (107216) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:00PM (#22479126) Homepage Journal
    Given that the Church of Scientology isn't on the list [ebay.com] of VeRO about me pages, the whole thing seems really, really iffy.
  • by MECC (8478) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:06PM (#22479224)
    If what they want is to put an end to their online existence. Giving CoS carte blanc to delete auctions is worse that putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Was Ebay, presumable savvy to how the Internet works, thinking nobody would notice this? What kind of drugs do you have to take to get that delusional?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:14PM (#22479380)
    subjective?

    Scientology is to fraud and abuse as Microsoft is to monopolistic practices

    Both have been convicted in a court of law.
  • Re:VERO Program (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Beau6183 (899597) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:16PM (#22479410) Homepage
    FTFA:

    But Bill's e-meters (and the e-meters other ex-Scientologists have attempted to sell on eBay) are not counterfeits and do not violate the Church of Scientology's trademarks, patents, or copyrights.


    In any case, it's a lazy way for EBay to enforce rights compliance.

    Similarly, Mormon garments are another item that seem to take advantage of this program, so it's not exactly unheard of. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_garment/ [wikipedia.org]
  • Re:short answer (Score:1, Insightful)

    by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:16PM (#22479414) Homepage Journal
    I'm not going to get sued by my local Catholic Diocese if I print nasty bits from the Bible or some part of the latest Papal encyclical.

    Different religions have different takes on things.
    Sure you won't get sued, you may however get imprisoned, lashed, deported or worse for naming a teddy bear or drawing a cartoon.
  • by realmolo (574068) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:19PM (#22479444)
    According to the article, the Church of Scientology basically has no legal leg to stand on. Of course, who is going to take them to court? eBay surely doesn't care. And what about the people who are trying to buy used "e-meters"? Well, they are almost surely *Scientologists*! And we all know how the CoS feels about members that get out-of-line. I imagine that if the CoS *ever* caught one of their members buying a used e-meter, they'd make their lives hell.

    . So, really, no harm done all-around, I say.
  • mod parent up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:19PM (#22479458)
    This is important and it is relevant to the main story, because Co$ victims are often first thought to have committed suicide. There is a direct link between the main story and this news. Co$ is a dangerous cult.
  • Re:My guess is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:22PM (#22479510) Homepage
    Scientology must die. It was already a sign that they are beyond control when they can intimidate the IRS let alone eBay. I find it amazing that they've been able to do what they've done to this point. They are indeed frightening and that is reason enough to want the whole operation disbanded. I wonder how the EU is doing with the CoS? Last I heard some member nations were refusing to recognize them as a religion.

    It's a given that CoS will abuse eBay's information. I guess it's already too late to purge my account.
  • Holy crap NO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:27PM (#22479574)

    Given Scientology's record of fraud and abuse, should eBay give them this level of trust?

    The answer is right there. Would you want any group with Scientology's record of fraud and abuse to have access to anything important?

    What do you want to bet they'd pull auctions of other Scientology-questionable stuff that isn't e meters?

    Put a DVD copy of Anonymous' Scientology protests [youtube.com] up for sale and watch what happens. What do you want to bet that it winds up deleted? Blocking e meter sales my ass - this is nothing more than some goofy cult making decisions about what you're allowed to buy. Don't let it happen!

    These people are batshit fucking insane. Don't legitimize them by giving them any sort of power, control, or authority whatsoever.

  • by WolfTheWerewolf (84066) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:31PM (#22479616)
    ... so the CoS can get the name and address of the auction lister, then Fair Game them as they see fit.
    According to eBay's VeRO ToS they will gladly hand this information over.
  • Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:38PM (#22479710)
    If someone is drinking the Scientology Kool Aid, then does it really matter whether or not they get discounted second hand equipment? If Scientology has their hooks into you they will get your money one way or another.

    What they're really trying to control is the purchase of scientology collectables by non-scientologists.

  • by Kashra (1109287) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:39PM (#22479728) Homepage
    Of course, another completely misleading headline and article summary.

    The VeRO program does not provide direct access to eBay's database to delete items. It is a fast-track for manufacturers to submit deletion requests for items they believe are infringing on their copyrights. Every time an auction is deleted, the VeRO program gives eBay the proper documents holding the manufacturers legally responsible for their claim of copyright infringement.

    Taking a simple look at the program's description [ebay.com] reveals that ANY auction being deleted through this program can be reinstated, automatically, by the user, within 10 days. They simply have to do the same thing the manufacturer did: claim legal responsibility for their auction, in writing.

    Now, there's no doubt that I, as a private individual, would never risk challenging the very well funded battery of lawyers the Church of Scientology has to keep me in line. Even though I know they have no leg to stand on, I can't afford the legal battle. But I wouldn't cry that its eBay's fault, when eBay gave me the option to directly challenge the "manufacturer".
  • by Quadraginta (902985) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:39PM (#22479744)
    E-Bay is private firm, and they're free to list or not list sales on their site for any reason whatsoever, including because the "Church" of Scientology asserts some utterly bogus intellectual property right, or because they just feel like it.

    The C of S is not "preventing the resale of their product," they're just preventing the resale through E-Bay and with E-Bay's cooperation. You can still put an ad in the paper and sell it, or put up a notice in your neighborhood market, or just walk around town with a sign attached to you saying "E-Meter Cheap!"

    And who gives a shit what the lawyers think? Why should the law be relevant here? This isn't a question you want the lawyers thinking about, because you can be damn sure that any solution they think up is going to cost you far more in cash and personal liberty than you would like to part with. Do you want there to be a law telling you what you can and cannot sell on your personal website? Do you want to have to get your Craigslist ad vetted by the police before it can go up? Do you want the FBI to have the right to interrogate you about whether you sold your pet cat or unused furniture to the right people, and in the right way?

    Christ, let us keep the lawyers in the fridge, OK? If there's a big market for secondhand E-meters, and E-Bay foolishly foregoes it because they want to keep the Scientologists happy, then let someone start up a private website devoted to reselling E-Meters, and he will make scads of money, more than enough to dare the "Church" to sue him, and get their clueless clock cleaned and get hit for beaucoup lawyer fees on top of it.

    But what I suspect is that ex-Scientologists who want to recoup some of the financial loss associated with their recent vacation from rationality are a very small group, and while it kinda sucks that when there's very few of you and a whole lot of someone else (in this case, non-ex-Scientologists, or pre-ex-Scientologists), you have to tread carefully, that's just life in a wide-open democracy. It's not like an intelligent and determined person can't work around this problem fairly easily. I'm sure if I had an E-Meter to sell, I could do it easily enough without E-Bay or the Church getting a clue. Probably my 16-year-old could, too.

  • by JoshDM (741866) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:40PM (#22479748) Homepage Journal
    they now reference the words "e-meter" and "Scientology". That should drive some sales and page views.
  • by sholden (12227) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:40PM (#22479750) Homepage
    Not sure if scientologists are exactly the group I'd want ebay to "we can (and you authorize us to) disclose your User ID, name, street address, city, state, zip code, country, phone number, email, and company name to eBay VeRO Program participants as we in our sole discretion believe necessary or appropriate in connection with an investigation of fraud, intellectual property infringement, piracy, or other unlawful activity."

  • by linuxguy1454 (856932) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:41PM (#22479766) Homepage
    The current version of the E-meter known as the "Mark VIII Super Quantum E-meter" is a highly modified version of the 60's patented version. So no, you could not come close to it's functionality with that original patent's design, and it is not just a Wheatstone bridge. So a lawsuit on false advertising wouldn't succeed.

    Also, as a result of the fruitless '60-s investication of the CoS and it's E-meters by the IRS, the church had to add a disclaimer on all E-meters sold since then that the device in itself did nothing and was only to be used by trained or in-training Scientology ministers. Perhaps this is one reason that is motivating them to control the resale of used E-meters- so that they aren't accused of violating that '60s ruling by the IRS.

    That's my $.02
  • Re:short answer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:43PM (#22479812)
    First off I agree with the previous poster who said eBay should not give this much control to anyone.

    However, I think it is reaching to say (or suggest/infer/whatever) that eBay has no right to do this because it impinges your right to resell stuff.

    Yes, you do have a right to resell any thing or object you've legally acquired. But you don't have a right to do it on eBay. You buy and/or sell stuff on eBay according to eBay's terms, just as with any other service provider. As frustrating as it may be at times, eBay has the right to limit what is sold on their site. I think they're totally out of their gourd, mind you, but they are within their rights.
  • Re:short answer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by avandesande (143899) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:46PM (#22479860) Journal
    The OP was speaking about US law. Why the unnecessary tangent?
  • Suicide? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:47PM (#22479874)
    Am I paranoid to think that Scientology had a role in it? Even if it was nothing more than driving him to it...

    The sick thing? I'm certain that, even if they had nothing to do with it, Scientologists will chalk this up as a "win" ...
  • Re:short answer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by an.echte.trilingue (1063180) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:48PM (#22479886) Homepage

    I'm not going to get sued by my local Catholic Diocese if I print nasty bits from the Bible
    Maybe not, but they sure will sue your ass if you call them pedophiles [wwrn.org].
  • Re:short answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Teun (17872) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:48PM (#22479888) Homepage

    It's outright stupid, period. Why does ebay give this power to anyone?
    Because CO$ has a lot of nasty lawyers.
    They run a despicable business that can only survive thanks to litigation.

    This story of E-bay associating with CO$ cannot possibly be good for E-bay's reputation.
  • Re:short answer (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Zorbane (1095631) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:49PM (#22479894)
    I fail to see why this post is modded insightful (and no, I am not new here...just a bit too idealistic, perhaps). The issue at hand directly applies to Scientology's status in the US, and should not involve a game of "Your/their religion/Moral Code is worse than mine/yours, nyahhhhhh!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:52PM (#22479940)
    To be honest, it is pretty funny. I know I'm a jerk for thinking it, but I really think that the sort of people who fall for the crap they are pedlling are simply paying a stupidity tax.

    What sane and rational person would want an "e-meter" anyway?

    (As AC, so feel free to mod me -1 Jerk :)
  • It's functional? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tony (765) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:16PM (#22480250) Journal

    ...you could not come close to it's functionality with that original patent's design...
    Uhm... what functionality is that, exactly? It seems it has one function: to separate fools from their money in the service of richer fools. In that way, it seems to work identically to the 1960's version, only with a cooler name.

    And: it sounds like it was named by an eight-year-old.
  • Church (Score:2, Insightful)

    by castrox (630511) <{stefan} {at} {verzel.se}> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:17PM (#22480270)
    What *I* really don't get is why people don't just call Scientology for what it is: a sect. That way people who never heard of them will be better prepared when meeting a recruiting member and on guard.

    Insisting that they are a Church really isn't fair to the other religions humanity knows. Nevermind they use a name with "church" in it (not in Israel..!). AFAIK Scientology is a company run by greedy, manipulative lunatics for sheer profit.

    The weak minded and gullible are indoctrinated and *scammed* (which is an important point) by their people.

    Come to think of it.. it is actually hard to draw a line what a church is. In the old times the christian Church scammed its members aswell (and banished its non-members). Scientologists are, as it seems, prohibitively aggressive.
  • by neumayr (819083) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:21PM (#22480298)
    Oh yes it is.
    Just like followers of the Catholic Church ("contraception is evil"), some flavours of Islam ("kill those infidels"), and pretty much all religious fundamentalists (those people calling their offspring "Baby Jesus", for example).

    All pretty funny, IMO. If I didn't think it's funny I'd probably be very depressed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:38PM (#22480520)
    There have been many similar incidents in Scientology's past...

    A member "drowning" in a tub of scalding hot bathwater shortly after reaching a high level OT and the Church finding out he was broke.

    People throwing themselves in front of trains.

    People shooting/hanging themselves.

    A guy jumping out a window to his death, clutching his last $300, his "suicide note" claiming the Church at least would never get that money from him.

    A car being worked on by an ex-member mysteriously falls off the lift onto him while he is working on it. He had been attempting to save his sister from Scientology during the timeframe that this occurred. His mother, several thousand miles away in Mexico, claims to have seen two men messing with the car/lift in a vision or dream right before the event. Interesting tie-in: another former Scientology member and open critic investigating this case "committed suicide" by shotgun in the same building that the mother lived in.

    There are many more stories like this. Usually involving people who have A) criticized the Church openly B) attempted to cause legal problems for the Church C) were members who ran out of money.
  • Re:Church (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KDR_11k (778916) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:43PM (#22480592)
    A sect? I consider them organized crime.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:49PM (#22480682)
    in an 'apparent' suicide.

    -Anonymous
  • by Mikenotmike (956042) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:49PM (#22480684)
    According to ebay, like others mentioned in this article, they were given the same access as any other manufacturer, a fast track to Vero so they can get items removed quickly, but it still has to go through Vero. But this isn't to stop the sale of used e-meters most likely, it's to stop the sale of FAKE e-meters, since Scientology has patents on all their bogus devices (http://home.snafu.de/tilman/prolinks/patents.html). Ebay will allows remove listings for unauthorized replica's, it's their policy.
  • by edremy (36408) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:52PM (#22480734) Journal
    Yes, there is nothing at all funny about the things that Scientology does. But their beliefs *should* be held up for public ridicule, all the more so since they are so damn protective of them. Ridicule is an amazingly powerful tool when engaged in a battle of ideas, and this is at the core a battle of ideas. They want people to think they are some sort of wonderful self help operation that will give you insight into your mind and help you through difficult times. Having a pile of people pointing out what they really believe and laughing at them infuriates them, helps keep the suckers away and defuses their power as a "church".

    Think about the South Park episode that went through the entire theology of the CoS, with a big blinking sign that read "This is what Scientologists actually believe" over the animation. That was even more effective than the "Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum" song refrain about the Mormons, all the more so since there was no attempt at all at the end of the episode to paint actual CoS members as decent human beings, unlike the Mormon episode.

    Laugh at them.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:54PM (#22480752)
    I think old ladies are pretty stupid for falling for con men too. But I sure wouldn't find it amusing if it happened to my grandmother.
  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:06PM (#22480944) Homepage Journal

    "WWXD?"
    Scientologists are now allowed access to the eBay database without supervision? Shit-fire, these whackjobs shouldn't be allowed access to public transportation without supervision.

    What is eBay thinking? I'm not going to read TFA because it'll probably make my head hurt, but I'm hoping this was some oversight on eBay's part and the outcry is going to make them re-evaluate this "vErO" policy or whatever the hell it's called. I don't see why anybody should have this level of access to eBay besides the folks who administer the site. So this means that if I put a used computer up for sale on eBay Microsoft can delete it because there's a good chance that it has Windows on it? Disney can delete my auction of a used copy of The Little Mermaid? Or how about Apple being able to delete my auction of an old iPod (including 5000 mp3s)?

    I suppose it's just too much trouble to expect a third party to have to write a C&D letter to eBay, sort of like how it's too much trouble for the NSA to get an after-the-fact warrant signed by a judge before they listen in on the phone calls of US citizens.

    I'd like to say I'll never deal with eBay again, except for the fact that I've never dealt with eBay in the first place. I do like to barter through the Illinois Trade Association, though. If you think auctions are a cool way to do business, you really need to check out barter. It's one way to keep the government out of your grill.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:11PM (#22481840)
    That's pretty scary. That shows exactly how far the Cult of Scientology is prepared to go to suppress criticism. Staging a suicide is quite hardcore.
  • by jdjbuffalo (318589) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:13PM (#22481862) Journal
    You're supposed to report it to the IRS but if you don't actually make money (or reasonably would have) then they couldn't really get tax money out of you anyways. For example, if you trade your computer repairs for Joe's plumbing service and they are both about the same value (assuming just labor and no parts) then I don't see how anyone makes any money on it.

    This isn't to say that the IRS wouldn't try to get taxes from you but most bartering stuff is done under the table and unless you're doing massive amounts the IRS will never know.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:29PM (#22482738)
    ...But are they really sure there is no foul play ? We are speaking of the CoS after all, with operation snow white and many other bad stuff.
  • Re:Church (Score:5, Insightful)

    by insertwackynamehere (891357) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:46PM (#22482900) Journal
    If I want to know about Christianity, I can buy a Bible. I could even get free bibles if I know where to look. I could find a million different people preaching about the religion. I could find people who would be head over heals to go in depth about their beliefs for absolutley no money. I could sell a Bible on eBay and the pope isn't going to delete it. On the other hand, Scientology offers nothing except a promise of enlightment for a large sum of money. They don't follow through and have so much against them legally and morally that it is sophomoric to compare them to a real religion. Say what you want about religion, but a true religion is open (like most major religions) and a cult is closed (like Scientology). Taking jabs at mainstream religion is childish and ignores the real issues. And finally, Christianity's largest atrocities occured centuries ago, the stuff Scientology has done is completely out of place for the 20th and 21st century. I'm not trying to defend Christianity out of zealotry (I do not practice Christianity or Judaism, the two religions of my parents, although I do believe in God), I'm defending it because in this day and age it is a respectful religion to follow and one that isn't based around money, crime and tax breaks. Sure, one may not agree with some views but those views are open book. Scientology won't tell you their views because they are idiotic. All the stuff we know about Xenu is from leaks. Scientology never volunteered that information, and for a good reason. Until you are brainwashed, it sounds like pure BS.
  • Scientology @ebay (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @05:36AM (#22485716)
    For me, this sounds like a scientology member payed by ebay! Bad karma for ebay...

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