It never ceases to amaze me what people will do for money. Really, it’s appalling sometimes. I’ve seen some interesting eBay auctions before like people selling the free toiletries from hotels, but this is the first time I’ve seen people selling software that’s free from the developers on eBay. I’m sure it’s been going on for about just as long eBay has been around, but this was the first time I went and searched for it. It never crossed my mind that people would be selling FREE software, but I should have known better.

The first example: “Why pay a fortune for Adobe Photoshop when you can edit and draw pictures professionally with this professional paint program. This auction is for an instant download that you will receive by email once you have paid.”

The description above, sadly is for Paint.NET which can be yours on eBay for $4.90. Or you could just download it from the developer for free! They list it as ‘Full Professional Graphics Program– Photoshop Compatible.’ For one, Paint.NET isn’t Photoshop compatible, but what’s even more appalling is that people actually purchase this. The person selling Paint.NET along with several other FREE applications has a stellar 100% feedback!

Paint

Not only is selling the free software an easy way to make money (and highly unethical), it also looks like it’s an easy way to gather up feedback. What’s equally as bad is that this same user is selling Open Office and Nvu (comparable to FrontPage or Dreamweaver) for $4.90, as well.After the buyer has paid, the seller just directs them to the free download link that anyone has access to.

Openoffice Nvu

Download Paint.NET 
Download OpenOffice
Download Nvu

Next example:Ubuntu Linux – the normally free operating system is being sold on eBay for $1.99 plus $5.98 shipping charges. This gives the buyer a profit of $7.97 because all they have to do is go to shipit.ubuntu.com, enter in the buyers address, and Ubuntu sends out the disks for free. The seller doesn’t even have to ship a thing!

Ubuntu5

And just as the Paint.NET scenario above, people actually buy the software and leave positive feedback for this buyer, thanking him for the fast shipping. This particular seller is not the only one selling Linux, in fact, others are selling it for even more.

I know for sure that one of the developers for Paint.NET is aware of this, however he says that to his knowledge what they’re doing is not illegal because of the MIT License that Paint.NET is released under.

He found out about this from people who actually purchased the program on eBay and later fount out that they paid for a free program.  The seller in this situation does not specifically say what program it is, rather they just describe it.

I’m all about people researching before they buy, but considering these sellers have great feedback and they generally don’t specify the program that the buyer will be receiving other than to describe it, it’s hard to blame the buyer for not looking into it. It’s obviously an unethical way to do business, but it’s happening. Be sure to spread the word so that people won’t get scammed like this!

There Are 12 Comments

  1. There is nothing unethical about selling free software. Although the value of what these sellers are offering is, in my opinion, quite low so is their price. I agree it is basically taking advantage of the ignorance of others in this case but we need to be careful about setting a precedence that there are right and wrong ways to seel free software. These sellers are arguably provding a serivce to the buyer when they point out where to get the software. Is this service worth $5? Maybe not, but as you say, no one seems to be complaining.

    At the end of the day the only way to differentiate your “free” software from anyone elses is to offer value added service. It’s up to the market to then decide what this extra service is worth. As long as the sale and redistribution of some software doesn’t violate the license it’s fair game.

  2. Haha the Ubuntu one really takes the biscuit! But I kind of agree with Sean, but they should donate at least some of the money to the developers.

  3. At the very bottom of at least one of the ebay auctions, you will find this text:

    This software is open source, distribution fees are for a localised, user friendly download, installation and support.No copyrights have been violated with this auction. We are authorisedand licenced to distribute this product under a GPL licence. This auction complies with all eBay rules. A link to this licence can be provided on request. EBay staff please ask for a copy before taking action. Thank you for taking time to read this note.

    At least they have that… though it really should say that the software is free. Still seems wrong to me.

  4. Personally I do think this is wrong, of course that could just be me. If the money was donated in some fashion to the continued development of the software then that wouldn’t be so bad, but I have a feeling that this is not the case.

  5. This is a example of the services that have been built around the free software community. I agree that the Paint.NET example is of pretty low value to the customer, but in the past I’ve bought a number of Linux distros from sellers on E-bay who would ship it to me on CD as downloading gigabytes of data was way beyond my means.

    So sure, some of the examples on E-bay are pretty low value, but I think it’s a very useful option. Free as in freedom remember, not beer.

  6. Did you notice that this seller also cuts off the title bar from the screen shots?

    Wouldn’t want potential suckers to google the product name and find out they can get the download for free.

    Whatsizface

  7. The fact that they leave out the name of the product, and cut off the title bar from the screenshots tells ya that they know what they’re doing is wrong.

  8. I agree and disagree. I think it’s unethical to trick a buyer into buying a free program. Then again, caveat emptor. If an eBay seller sold free software and explicitly mentioned that it was free, I think it would be. After all, as rod noticed, some Linux distros take forever to download. The bandwidth (and power) it costs is sometimes more than ordering it on eBay.

  9. onlineapps wrote:
    I agree and disagree. I think it’s unethical to trick a buyer into buying a free program. Then again, caveat emptor. If an eBay seller sold free software and explicitly mentioned that it was free, I think it would be. After all, as rod noticed, some Linux distros take forever to download. The bandwidth (and power) it costs is sometimes more than ordering it on eBay.

    That is definitely true. If they had said that you can download it yourself at no cost then I wouldn’t feel so bad, but for many of them the seller only provides download links upon receiving payment. Therefore they are not doing any work for the money.

  10. [blendernation.com] And when I saw the talk of “Photoshop compatible” I expected to see [gimp.org] mentioned, as it also appears. Oh, and your antispam system is not working. It always says 10 plus 7 and rejects 17. Not to mention that your comment system eats the plus sign.

  11. yann wrote:

    [blendernation.com] And when I saw the talk of “Photoshop compatible” I expected to see [gimp.org] mentioned, as it also appears. Oh, and your antispam system is not working. It always says 10 plus 7 and rejects 17. Not to mention that your comment system eats the plus sign.

    You’re not the first to mention problems with the anti-spam system. We’re looking into alternatives– thanks for pointing it out! :)

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