Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

Name:
Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Friday, April 01, 2005

Kicked Off eBay!

No Ho-Ho-Hos For Fan of SmoBros (with apologies to Variety)

I wasn't exactly laughing the day the complaint from the Smothers Brothers arrived. As a lifelong Smothers Brothers fan, there really isn't much I wouldn't do for these guys. Hell, if they asked me to come over and cut their grass, I'd be glad to do it. So I was truly hurt when I read the words: "your listing infringes the rights owners copyright, trademark, or other rights." The e-mail from eBay further went on to advise me that the rights owners had not made this charge lightly -- they had notified eBay, under penalty of perjury, that mine was an infringing listing.

At this point, I was pretty confused. I had advertised a 16mm film of an episode of THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS HOUR, circa the late 60s. It has been generally accepted for quite some time that commerce in 16mm tv shows is not an unlawful activity. In the 1970s, the FBI was known to show up on collectors' doorsteps investigating their possession of these supposedly contraband items. There have been no investigations since that time, and major motion picture studios have conceded that, because of the "first sale" doctrine, it is not unlawful to possess or sell these items. It is generally accepted that distributors "sold" tv series and motion pictures to tv stations rather than leasing them, and in so doing put them into the legal marketplace by virtue of the "first sale" doctrine.

I was convinced that their complaint didn't have any merit but what's a small time eBay seller to do when he runs up against somebody with the stature of the Smothers Brothers, who, incidentally, he has long admired? Of course, I did the logical thing which was nothing since these occasional complaints didn't really seem to have any significance and were mainly viewed as an attempt on eBay's part to pacify the intellectual rights holders who monitored their site. Of course, unbeknownst to me, these occasional complaints were starting to accrue on some demented abacus they evidentally keep in eBay headquarters and I was suddenly booted off of eBay. Actually, eBay makes it pretty easy to get reinstated -- all you've got to do is promise that you won't engage in any more of this offending behaviour. Since I believe I was within my rights in listing that film, I decided this was a matter of honor at this point and decided to follow eBay's instructions to contact the intellectual property rights owner directly at: smobro1@aol.com.

Now the wheels started spinning. Would I possibly have a better chance if I contacted smobro2 instead of smobro1? My guess was that Dick Smothers, who does corporate speaking engagements, would probably have laid claim to smobro1 (I can even visualize that on his license plate), and might be a lot tougher to deal with than Tom, who owns a winery, and is probably more mellow, and who is undoubtedly smobro2. Then, conspiracy theorist that I am, I began to wonder whether the brothers are even aware of these individual complaints or whether in fact they are the work of their minions. Surely comedians as successful as the Smothers Brothers must have a full complement of minions to tend to their empire (to say nothing of those vines at the winery). Maybe the minions were even acting on their own and got a little carried away here.

Actually, I really know that smobro1 belongs to Wendy Miller who takes care of their fan e-mail. Hey, I'm a big fan myself so I'm going to e-mail her about this matter but I sure hope she doesn't take offense about the minion designation. I've always been rather fond of people named Wendy (remember that Wendy and Me tv series?), so cross your fingers for me. Stay tuned for an update on this. Oh, and by the way, the brothers have a new CD entitled Curb Your Tongue, Knave. How can you not like these guys?

JULIE, JULIE, JULIE!!!
I have always liked Julie Newmar (no matter how innocent your intentions, one always hesitates to use the word love in connection with a celebrity) and my like for her did not diminish one whit after I received a complaint from her. In fact, as I read the e-mail, I kept picturing her as Catwoman, giving me forty lashes with her tail as punishment. Just kidding, Ms Newmar!

I have long been a fan of the talented and beautiful Ms Newmar and one look at her web site only confirms that she is obviously a very sensitive and caring person. One of my friends had been a big fan as well, and it was one of his prized collectibles that I was advertising that had evidently upset the Newmar camp. ADVENTURES IN PARADISE was a rather lackluster series and there's not much Michener in it (his book contributed the title to the series) but some episodes are redeemed by the glow of a star and this particular episode was singlehandedly saved by Ms. Newmar.

A recent check of eBay revealed more than sixty ADVENTURES IN PARADISE listings. One of them was being advertised by a seller with a feedback number of about four zillion. So I quickly eliminated the collectible as the problem. The only possible explanation was that they objected to my mentioning her name in the listing. Listing her name was done not so much to capitalize on it but rather to alert her fans who probably search eBay listings by her name.

I confess that I will still like Ms. Newmar even if this is not resolved in my favor, but unless it is, it is doubtful that my autographed Catwoman photo will ever regain the prominent spot it once had on my desk. That spot is now occupied by one of the few other autographed photos I own (I'm not a real autograph hound) -- that of Mel Torme, and Catwoman is now staring forlornly at a wall. I also plan on e-mailing Ms. Newmar and will report the results later.

I can no longer remember what I might have done to upset the people that run the Elizabeth Montgomery estate but there's no way I'm going to tangle with them anyway. Dead or alive, it's best not to risk invoking the spirit of Samantha. I didn't even need to confer with Dick York on this one. After five years on the show, he was replaced by Dick Sargent so what chance would I possibly have with this complaint?

Last, and most bizarre of all, I received a complaint from David Cassidy who objected to my listing of a 16mm film of an episode of Man Undercover, a short-lived series that he starred on. At first angry, I later came to realize that Cassidy was only trying to spare another human being from having to watch this series, and who am I to quibble with a humanitarian gesture like that?

Friends tell me I haven't been smiling as much lately. Cut off from eBay, the flow of money into my coffers has dwindled to a trickle. I've had to use the library instead of the bookstore. Pretty soon the world will experience a collecting cataclysm the likes of which have never been seen before. When I stop buying, mouths will not be fed, the delicate fabric of the collectibles ecosystem will be irreversibly rent, and whole economies will be in turmoil. Boo to you, eBay.