Is Reselling Your Shampoo Bottle Online Illegal?
from the so-says-one-company dept
Greg Beck writes in to let us know about the latest ridiculous legal situation. A woman who bought a bottle of shampoo at a store then attempted to resell it on eBay. She took a photo of the bottle she bought and used that in her eBay listing. The company proceeded to demand that she take down the listing completely. They appear to have two separate (but equally questionable) reasons for this. First, they claim that the photo is copyright infringement. That’s a tough one to support since the woman took the photograph herself of the bottle that she bought and which she owns (yes, owns). The company suggests that it owns the copyright on the actual bottle with their label, which would mean any photograph of their shampoo bottle would represent infringement. As Beck shows in his blog post, this is an odd interpretation of copyright law. The bottle, by itself, is not copyrightable and even if it were, the photograph would clearly fall under fair use protections. The second complaint from the company is that they have distributor agreements that say only certified resellers can sell their product. However, that’s a contractual agreement between the company and its distributors. This woman has no contractual relationship with the shampoo company and thus cannot be violating any contract. On top of that, there is the right of first sale. As the legal owner of the shampoo bottle, the woman has absolutely every right to then go and resell it however she wants at whatever price she wants. The company has sold it, and no longer has any control over it. The woman has apparently decided to ignore the multiple threats from the company, so it’s not clear how they’re going to respond next. However, this is yet another example of a company focusing so much on control that they forget that once they’ve sold something, it’s no longer theirs.