'Harry Potter' author fights e-book fraud on eBay

Has an injunction been issued against eBay? Each side sees court order in India case differently.
Written by Candace Lombardi, Contributor
Children's author J.K. Rowling may or may not have garnered the equivalent of a temporary injunction against eBay over the sale of fraudulent Harry Potter e-books, depending on how you interpret court documents.

Rowling and Warner Bros., which produces the Harry Potter movies, filed a lawsuit in India in 2004 against several eBay sellers and eBay itself over unauthorized copies of e-books that appeared on Baazee.com (the former name and domain name for what is now eBay India).

On November 16, 2004, an initial request for an injunction was denied by Justice Mukul Mudgal of the High Court of Delhi after A.S. Chandhiok, eBay's senior counsel for the case, petitioned the court. Chandhiok argued that there was no need for an injunction because eBay was willing to remove the sellers in question, their advertisements for the e-books and the listings for the unauthorized e-books from its Baazee.com site.

On January 24, 2007, Judge A.K. Sikri from the High Court of Delhi signed an order that, depending on how his language is interpreted, would make the voluntary action on the part of eBay "absolute till the disposal of the suit." The next hearing, cross-examinations of the plaintiffs' witnesses in the case, is scheduled for May 28.

eBay confirmed that it is the "defendant No. 5" referred to in the documents. But eBay spokeswoman Nichola Sharpe said in an e-mail that the wording of the January order is not a direct injunction against eBay, but a confirmation that one is not needed because it willingly removed the fraudulent sellers, sellers' listings and sellers' advertisement from its India site.

Akash Chittranshi, the local plaintiffs' attorney for the case in India, as well Neil Blair, Rowling's agent at Christopher Little, say otherwise. They assert that upon further hearings on the details of the case, the court changed its mind as to whether an injunction was needed and that on January 24, 2007, issued an injunction against eBay, as well as the sellers.

"In 2004 the Judge only wanted to consider eBay's reply to the claims made before granting the Order...after which the matter was taken up by the Court in January 2007 when the injunction was made absolute against all the defendants in the matter till conclusion of the proceedings and was served upon them all," said Chittranshi in an e-mail.

"My clients expect eBay to take whatever steps it needs to take to comply with the court's order," he said.

Whether an injunction was served on eBay or just the sellers on eBay could have greater implications with regard to eBay's legal obligations to police counterfeiters.

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton filed suit in France against eBay in September for not doing enough to stop the sale of counterfeit versions of products such as handbags over its site, according to a report by Business Week. Tiffany & Co. also filed suit in federal district court in New York in 2004. Both cases are still ongoing.

Rowling announced in early February that her final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is scheduled for release on July 21 in the U.K. and U.S.

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

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