How to Avoid Breaking eBay's Image Rules

What you don't know about image rights can get you suspended

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Anyone who sells on eBay can tell you that the images make the sale. If you're not a professional photographer, you might be tempted to grab an image of an identical product from another listing or from elsewhere on the web. This is called image theft. Using another seller's or manufacturer's photo is against eBay policy and can result in removal of the listing and even suspension of your eBay account.

eBay's Image Policy states:

"When creating listings, members should write their own description and take their own photos. Buyers like to see images and descriptions that accurately represent an item they are purchasing. 
"If you use text or an image that was created by someone else be sure that you have permission to use the text or image from the rights owner or creator."

Use eBay's Product Catalog

Listing an item on eBay can be a ponderous process, so the company is trying to streamline it by providing a product catalog. In certain categories such as books and DVDs, eBay has stock photos available in the catalog. If the product is a media item and has an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), try entering the number while you're creating the listing to see if a photo pops up.

If the item is in any condition other than "new without defects," always add your own photos in addition to the stock photo. Buyers want to know exactly what they're getting. The absence of images in addition to the stock photo, especially for an item that is not identified as brand-new and flawless, makes buyers suspicious.

Never use a stock photo if it doesn't exactly match the item you're selling in every detail.

eBay wants its buyers to see exactly what an item looks like before purchasing it. It's also in their best interest and yours that listings look as professional as possible. That's why eBay is doing the legwork to provide stock photos and stock descriptions.

Don't Use Manufacturers' Photos

Although they are rampant on the site, eBay rules forbid using images copied from a manufacturer's website without express written permission from the company. Sellers can be sued for the unauthorized use of photos.

For example, if a seller has a pair of L.L.Bean boots and finds a photo of the exact style on the company's website, that image may not be copied and used in the listing without permission. Odds are that L.L.Bean or any other company is not going to grant that permission to an eBay seller. 

This may surprise eBay users, who assume that such image use is acceptable because they've seen other sellers doing it. Image theft is a tough rule to enforce. eBay users are encouraged to report listings using unauthorized photos so that the listing can be removed.

Other Sellers' Photos Are Not Allowed

Your photos belong to you, and other sellers' photos don't. It's as simple as that.

eBay buyers are a suspicious lot, and for good reason. If they see a photo of a designer dress and know it's from another listing for a designer dress, they could suspect that your listing is a fake or a cheap substitute, or that you're hiding a flaw that would show up in your own photo.

Image theft is trickier when the item is rare, collectible, or limited in number. In these cases, image theft can border on outright fraud. Your photos must show the exact item you're selling, preferably from every angle, so that issues of condition, authenticity, and quality are fully addressed. Accurate photos help the seller in the long run by avoiding disputes, returns, and the much-dreaded negative reviews.

Use Images From the Public Domain

Although not expressly stated, eBay apparently allows images from the public domain. By definition, an image is in the public domain if it is not under copyright. It is "royalty free," meaning that no one can demand payment for it. A web search or a Google Images search can turn up public domain images.

Even if you use an image from the public domain, you should probably take your own pictures as well. It enhances the listing and assures buyers that the item is exactly what they think it is.