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Name: eBay
Dates: 1995-present
Type: Auction
Fandom: N/A
URL: http://ebay.com
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eBay is a massive, worldwide auctioning site. Users can buy and sell a variety of objects for relatively cheap processing fees.

Because of its international use, fen can use eBay to collect items that would otherwise be unavailable to them; for example, outside of conventions many fans had no way of purchasing doujinshi, which are primarily created in Japan, until eBay opened. Many other fandom related objects, such as CDs, cosplay costumes, plushies, posters, videos, and jewelry, can be found on eBay.

A Beauty and the Beast fan wrote: "My first zine purchases were directly from fanfic writers who were still selling copies of their zines. Then I discovered eBay! BATB fanzines were the reason that I signed up for eBay. Nearly half of my zines were purchased through eBay. Sometimes the spirit of competition got the better of me when bidding for a particular zine and I’m embarrassed to admit how much I ended up paying for some of my zines." [1]

Examples of Why Fannish Materials are Sold on eBay

A fan needs to pay the bills:

  • from 2008: "I will be placing up for auction for the next several weeks my collection of Sentinel and Stargate Sg-1 Fan fiction which include slash, to assist in paying mounting medical bills," and from another in 2007: "Those ER and emergency oral surgery bills are starting to come in - yikes! (No insurance!)!"

A fan donate it to sell for charity:

A mundane inherits them from a relative/estate sale and wants to unload it:

  • [need example]

A mundane finds it at a garage sale or comes across it in some way:

  • an eBay seller in 2009 sold about fifty Robin of Sherwood zines with the disclaimer: "I cannot say that I have any idea on the value of these fanzines." He or she priced them at five cents a page. Another seller, mystified by the zines she'd come across, sold them by weight.
  • an eBay seller in 2013 sells an original TACS painting which was used in the zine Other Times and Places: " I have had this piece of art work for at least 10 years, I was at a estate sale and thought it was just unbelievable cool.I never knew who artist was, Until a friend recently told me this was a artist for a comic fanzine, or fanlore.It is exquisite!! Don't miss out."[2]

A fan or mundane sells it purely as a business:

  • from 2009 says, "We just got an incredible Star Trek collection in for sale on consignment. This collection is over 30 years in the making. I know this for a fact because we have been selling items to this couple since the late 1970s. Over 200 large boxes have arrived and we will be listing this collection over the next few months." and another in 2008 says, "I am auctioning off a bunch of STAR TREK ephemera, fanzines, zines, scripts, etc... from the personal collection of [J W]."

A fan sells fannish material to buy more fannish material:

  • [example]

A fan simply has too many and needs the space:

  • from 2006: These zines are "being sold by a fan who is looking to whittle down his massive collection."

A fan claims is no longer interested in fandom/spousal threats:

  • from 2007: "I am selling most of my fanzines due to financial problems and health issues. Also, my sweet hubby has declared that he will have a big bonfire of all my fanzines when I die. I think he is absolutely serious."

Fannish Reactions and Controversy

  • the profit issue, see Fandom and Profit
  • the privacy issue
  • eBay is not a venue where people can trade or give away fannish materials
  • eBay isn't a "fannish space"

Fans' opinions regarding the sale of zines on eBay have changed drastically over time. When eBay opened in 1995, media fandom was just beginning to embrace the Internet. Most fanzine publishers and fans were wary about posting fannish content online, although this did change as more and more fans (and the world) flooded the Internet.

One of the early discussions of fanzines for sale on eBay took place on the Virgule-L mailing list in January 1999. A fan asked the mailing list if it would be OK to sell an issue of Grup, an adult themed fanzine, on eBay to help pay her medical expenses. The initial discussion was calm, with most fans saying it would not be advisable.

"This issue came up in a related forum when someone was selling some old SF fanzines on eBay. My feeling is that it's a little bit "not quite the thing," since it's less likely to find a fannish home that way. On the other hand, I don't think that Trek slash needs to stay in the closet.

On the gripping hand, by eBay's rules, it might be considered porn -- in which case it needs to be listed in the "adult" section, which is going to have much less traffic.

I'd be interested in hearing what you decide, and whether it was worth doing, if you do sell it there."[3]

"Don't. Selling it this way would put eBay in violation of Paramount/Viacom's copyrights."[4]

"I agree. It's one thing to offer these to other fans. But when you start selling to the general public, if Paramount found out, they and e-bay would have to act to preserve copyrights. Also, if any of the authors or editors are still around and used their real names, maybe this might be a bit more publicity than they would care to have."[5]

"I wondered how long it would be until we saw fannish items being sold there. I certainly wouldn't be happy to see my vids sold there -- the vid makers need to fly *very* low to stay off the radar of the record companys. Zine's, even old old zines, have the same problem -- and just because this zine is old, doesn't mean there aren't still people selling new zines for TOS. I guess I have to second [B]'s recommendation to fanzines.com. The site is growing a little slowly, but it's got some interesting stuff."[6]

Eight months later, the discussion on Virgule-L was much less calm when a fanzine publisher discovered her fanzines were being sold on eBay. The eBay seller, who herself was a fanzine editor, was running 227 eBay zine auctions, with three of the publisher's slash zines. If the seller refused to remove the zines from eBay, the zine publisher posted, she would report them to eBay for copyright infringement of the TV shows. This resulted in a swift negative response from the mailing list members.

"I completely agree that I don't like to see fanzines on eBay. [Contacting the seller and explaining the 'private' nature of fanzines]..seems very clever and appropriate. [But reporting her for copyright infringement of the original shows]... this seems lunatic. That is exactly what we don't want corporate entities saying, that fanzines are copyright infringement. Aw, I'm not a lawyer, and I shouldn't even guess at this shit, but this doesn't make any sense to me at all."[7]

"....there are consequences any time you attempt to involve the "authorities":

1) Keep in mind that [A], as a zine publisher whose zines are now being resold, is and has been infringing the shows, so she stands the risk of being reported to the copyright holders (along with every other slash zine editor and writer etc who is listed as the originator of any resold zine.) In fact, ebay, once put on notice that someone is selling infringing material, may be under an obligation to report infringing material. Or they may simply cancel the sale and not report it. It's a risk that cannot be measured, one that I would not be willing to take.

3) Another risk: retaliation. If [A] actually informed the seller in a private e-mail that she's one of the zine producers, so "please stop selling my zines", this raises her profile considerably. The seller could retaliate back by reporting her etc etc....

2) It also could raise the issue of how ebay treats fan produced material altogether. The seller could rightly argue that all zines need to be banned (not just hers) and ebay may feel compelled to start cancelling other types of fan generated art, mugs, photos, memorabilia. How much of the TV or movie related memorabilia sold on ebay (and that we buy) is licensed?

So in short, I wouldn't recommend involving ebay and would focus my energy on working with the seller. I would also try to find out who has been selling the zines and how he/she got them etc."[8]

"I can't imagine why any fan would think it was a good idea to sic the copyright police on fans or fannish products. It's like poisoning your water supply to kill your roommate; how can it not affect you also?"[9]

"I don't much like seeing slash zines listed with authors' names on Ebay either, especially if they're not even in the adult section. It seems like tempting fate. But I strongly agree with Sandy and Shoshanna -- purposely calling down the Copyright Thunder is not only tempting fate, it's inviting it in and giving it a map. Seems like it could have worse consequences for everyone involved than the original sales on Ebay do."[10]

Instead, the fans urged the zine publisher to write to the seller privately and tell her that slash material should at least be kept in the adult section and that she should not use the authors name for privacy reasons, with one member commenting: "I doubt you can stop her from reselling the zines if she legitimately bought them."[11]

By 2000, there were 462 zines listed for sale on eBay[12] and fans were growing more pragmatic about selling fanzines on eBay:

"While ebay is a recent complication, this has *always* been a problem with zines. They're hard copy. They get handed around. They get thrown out. They get sold at public, mixed cons where anyone can look through them. A friend on this list found a huge stack of zines, many of them slash, in a *recycling* pile while walking her dog. She was able to rescue them and the owners -- who'd ended up with them when their sister passed on -- were thrilled to give them to an appropriate home, but anyone could've walked off with them. For some fans with no fandom connections outside of their computer, finding zines on ebay is the only way to get them. But it is rattling, especially to people who could've never foreseen this."[13]

In 2000 and again in 2001, fans on The Pits and Ci5 mailing lists expressed their unhappiness with the sale of zines on eBay raising both privacy expectations as well as the possibility of being scanned (paying prices for pirated photocopies).[14]

Starting in 2002, fanzine publisher Ashton Press began offering their new and used fanzines via their eBay store. Other fanzine publishers and zine owners followed suit offering reasons ranging from "Google already links to loads of fanfic" to financial need.[15]

In May 2002, members of the Venice Place mailing list objected to the sale of zines on eBay.

"Just to add my two cents (which is probably worth only one during times of inflation) I had some thoughts on the Ebay discussion. I think, for my own self, that zines sold through Ebay is a violation of unwritten fandom rule. Alot of authors have their real names in these zines (me included) and while I personally have no qualms about people knowing who I am in the fandom, I don't want to see my name on a slash zine that is at the access to anyone in the world who finds the listing at auction and clicks on the description just wants to see 'what this slash thing is all about.' The fandom community is a great one and an accessible one to those who want to purchase zines second-hand, so I don't see the reason to take a zine out of the context of that and sell it on an auction such as Ebay."[16]

Not everyone on the Venice Place mailing list agreed with this sentiment however, with one fan pointing out that:

"But my own personal opinion is that once someone buys a zine from me, it is theirs to do with as they please. I have no problem with someone reselling it on eBay, offering it on a list, or giving it away to a friend if that's what they choose to do."[17]

At the same time in 2002, members of the KSCircle were exchanging listings of eBay K/S zines being sold at 'good prices.'[18]

Throughout 2003, there remained pockets of stiff resistance. In December 2003, members of the Zinelist debated whether it was OK to sell fanzines on eBay. Ironically, a few of the objections came from fans who had listed their own zines on eBay only a year before. In addition, numerous eBay sales had been posted to the mailing list without comment. Some suggested that fanzine publishers add a note to their new fanzines forbidding the resale on eBay or other public venues. Others felt that fannish culture required that zine buyers email the publishers for permission first before trying to dispose of their zines. However, emailing for permission would not work for the bulk of zines been published decades ago or the many older zine publishers who had no online presence. Others pointed out that, under US law, buyers of tangible goods retained the right of resale. Another recommendation was for fans to set up their own "auction sites" to prevent the mundanes from getting their hands on the zines, particularly the slash ones. None of these suggestions proved to be palatable or even practical. In the end, fans continued posting their eBay zine auctions both on and off list.[19]

In 2005, the Eclecticon charity zines were listed on eBay by the Eclecticon convention staff. There were no objections to the sale when it was posted to the Eclecticon mailing list.

By 2006, there were fewer complaints from zine fans about eBay fanzine sales, unless it was to object to inflated prices. Often fans who sold their zines to other fans at low prices would find their zines relisted on eBay with 1000% mark ups.[20]

In 2008, the issue of zines being sold on eBay was one again debated by members of the Zinelist, raising many of the same pros and cons as before in earlier years. As before, no consensus was reached and fans continued to list and sell their zines on eBay, including one of the early K/S zine publishers, Pon Farr Press.[21]

In 2009, when some zine publishers protested the creation of the University of Iowa Fanzine Archives Iowa on the grounds it made fanzines and fan fiction "too public", eBay zine sales were held up as one of the many examples proving that fanzines had long been in the public eye:

"I was looking [on eBay] and easily found one person selling 1,121 zines - slash, gen, and het, in dozens of fandoms and multi-media, from zines that were published decades ago to zines that were published within the past year. How much more public can we get, really? Anyone looking for us can find us a whole lot easier through Google or ebay than by either going to Iowa and requesting materials, or filling out forms and requesting that specific pages in specific zines be sent to them, without anything more to go on than the title of the zine.[22]

In 2009, however, another generation of fans "discovered" the existence of fanzines being sold on eBay. A copy of a custom zine found its way for sale on eBay which then led some fans to argue that all fanzines were a violation of copyright law and were 'putting fandom in peril' by introducing profit to fan fiction.[23] These fans began a LJ viral campaign aimed at putting fanzine publishers and sellers out of business. They were surprised at the idea that someone might charge money for the physical production of fan fiction. Their reaction was most likely shaped by the fact that their only fannish interactions had been online and as a result they had little exposure to the preceding thirty years of fandom and fanzine history. See The eBay fanzine selling controversy.

As of May 24, 2013, eBay has over 1,658 listings for Star Trek fanzines alone.[24] 496 zines listings self-identified themselves as slash fanzines.[25]

eBay and Sales Of Other Fan Made Materials

[add history of other fannish objects that are not zines here].

Fan Art

Fan art was produced in much more limited quantities than fanzines, with few fans being able to afford originals and with art print runs usually being limited to increase the prices of the prints. However, fan art was and is being sold on eBay. While many fans objected to the practice, others pointed out that the creation and sale of "celebrity" art was a well established practice even outside the fandom world.[26] Unlike fanzines, fan art at fan-run conventions could sell for hundreds of dollars without any worries or debate about "profits." Most of the early objections to the sale of fan art on eBay came from the use of the fan artists' names in the more public context. As more and more of fannish life was transferred to visible and online venues, some of these objections eased.

In 2000, a UK fan on the Britslash mailing list offered limited edition art prints of Bodie and Doyle for sale on eBay.

In March 2002, a UK seller posted four Starsky & Hutch art prints by Suzan Lovett on eBay. As a result, Suzan, along with other fan artists, began placing stickers on the art prints that they sold forbidding fans from re-selling art prints on eBay or other "public venues".[27] Five years later she was giving limited permission to a few fans fans to sell t-shirt transfers containing her fan art on eBay.[28]

In 2003, a fan on the slashswap mailing listed a Sentinel art print by Barbara Fister-Liltz.

In 2007, fan artist Enednoviel listed some of her Starsky & Hutch art prints to raise funds to attend ZebraCon. Shortly thereafter she discovered some of her fan art was being resold without permission on eBay. The seller had taken prints, cut off her signature and then blended several pieces together into photmanips, listing them as original drawings.[29] Also starting in 2007, Jean Kluge began selling t-shirt transfers with hers and Suzan Lovett's art.[30]

Not all fans objected to the sale of fan art on eBay - just certain kinds of fan art:

"Someone is selling fan art of a sexual nature featuring two of the male characters from Castlevania: Lament of Innocence: Walter Bernhard and Joachim Armster. Mind you, it’s fine what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own castle, but way to destroy something unholy by making it… dirty fan art... I’ve personally reported what, a dozen of these to eBay now?"[31]

Some of more recent fan artists on deviantart have discussed selling their fanart on eBay. The prevailing view is that all fan art, not just fan art sales, are copyright violations. Others feel that selling fan art "cheapens" your value as an artist.

I don't recommend it. Here's the thing, you'll probably never get caught. But it's just a shitty thing to do. Selling fan art is generally frowned upon in the professional art scene and you don't want to get labeled as a hack, especially by fellow artists. People can rationalize all they want, but at the end of the day you're profiting off someone else's work. Yes, that person works for a big company and whatever- it's their art. Not yours."[32]

A few more practical voices point that even if selling fan art is a copyright violation, the chances of getting caught are minimal. As long as you are selling your own fan art, the risk is the artists to take.

"I can't imagine the copyright owners of a huge character like Spiderman, or Superman, or Batman, or any other really big name character would be too worried over a drawing or painting being sold on Ebay for $20. I see a lot of artists doing it, so I'm sure the risk isn't too great. The moral issue is whole other can of worms."[33]

A far bigger problem for deviantart fan artists is discovering their fan art being resold on eBay.[34]}}

Gallery of Fan Art Sold On eBay

Screencaps taken randomly on May 25, 2013.


  1. ^ Linda Wong, 2011
  2. ^ ebay list, Archived version.
  3. ^ Quoted anonymously.
  4. ^ Quoted anonymously.
  5. ^ Morgan Dawn, quoted with permission. She was inaccurate that Paramount would need to act to protect copyrights. Paramount might need to act to preserve trademarks.
  6. ^ Sandy Herrold, quoted with permission.
  7. ^ Sandy Herrold, quoted with permission.
  8. ^ Morgan Dawn, quoted with permission.
  9. ^ Shoshanna, quoted with permission.
  10. ^ Quoted anonymously with permission.
  11. ^ Morgan Dawn, quoted with permission. In an ironic twist, the objecting zine publisher began listing some of her used fanzines on eBay ten years later.
  12. ^ Morgan Dawn's personal notes from September 2000, accessed May 23, 2013.
  13. ^ Flamingo's post the Venice Place mailing list in July 2000, quoted with permission.
  14. ^ Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed May 23, 2013.
  15. ^ Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed May 23, 2013.
  16. ^ KimberlyFDR, quoted with permission.
  17. ^ Posted to the Venice Place mailing list, May 2002, quoted anonymously.
  18. ^ Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed May 23, 2013.
  19. ^ Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed May 23, 2013.
  20. ^ Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed May 23, 2013.
  21. ^ Morgan Dawn's personal notes. As of May 23, 2013, Pon Farr Press was still selling their zines on eBay.; WebCite.
  22. ^ arduinna's post to the Zinelist dated June 2009, quoted with permission.
  23. ^ Excerpts from the July 2009 "PSA to Fanfic Writers"
    "If you are a Fanfic writer or Artist please go to this ebay site doctor_beth2000 and check to see if YOUR fanworks or someones you know and like are being sold as Fanzines for profit in what appears to be a very lucrative and active operation." petzipellepingo, dated July 29, 2009 and
    "I've never charged anyone for my fan works and actually turned down an invitation to a fanzine because I disliked the idea that anyone would have to pay for my creations, even if it was purportedly just for production costs. Seeing the 'real' fanzines listed for sale in that Ebay store just adds to my personal reasons not to participate in such projects." cited in 'Interesting copyright infringement issue', Fandom Lawyers, dated July 29, 2009).
  24. ^ WebCite screen shot of ebay search page (accessed May 24, 2013).
  25. ^ Webcite of ebay search page (accessed May 24, 2013).
  26. ^ Like many traditions, celebrity art has become increasingly restricted over the years and laws in the US vary between states. In New York, the rights to a celebrity's likeness ends when the person dies. In California, a "celebrity's" right of publicity continues after his or her death. Also, there are exceptions to the right of publicity including fair use. See Can I be sued for using a celebrity in a painted portrait, for the purpose of selling it?, Archived version.
  27. ^ Source: Item in hand, a dated Lovett art print picked up at the charity swap table at Escapade 2011.
  28. ^ Source: Morgan Dawn's personal notes accessed May 24, 2013. The art prints were "LOTR "All The King's Men (And Elves, etc"), "SG1 No Vacancy," "S&H "Timeless", and "Supernatural Blood Ties 1". Permission was again granted in 2010 for "Star Trek" The Eagle Nebula".
  29. ^ Source: Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed May 25, 2013.
  30. ^ Morgan Dawn's personal notes accessed May 25, 2013. One of Jean Kluge's art prints was a drawing of Mr Spock that was part of her "Contemplation" series. Other transfers included her "Pros colorstrip" series and her two Sentinel art pieces "Irresistible Force (Blair)" and "Immovable Object (Jim)".
  31. ^ The Castlevania fan art that SHOULD NOT BE dated Jan 17, 2009; WebCite.
  32. ^ Selling fanart on Ebay dated Sept 2, 2012; WebCite See also Is selling fan art illegal? dated Jan 30, 2013; WebCite.
  33. ^ Selling fanart on Ebay dated Sept 2, 2012; WebCite.
  34. ^ MH FAN ART ART THEFT.... dated April 4, 1012; WebCite.