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Lawyerless eBayer sues Autodesk over garage-sale miracle

Cad dowser shrink-wrapped in catch-22

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YouTubers have Christopher "Jedi" Knight. And eBayers have Tim "Happy Hour" Vernor.

In much the same way the light-sabred Jedi Knight stood up to the DMCA-waving lawyers at Viacom, defending the rights of YouTubers everywhere, Happy Hour Vernor is leading the charge for eBayers, intent on curbing the DMCA doings of software maker Autodesk.

The difference is that Vernor has actually filed a federal lawsuit against Autodesk, asking for $10m in damages.

And he doesn't have a lawyer.

Three years ago, Timothy Vernor quit his day job to enjoy life as a full-time eBay junkie. His online store, Happy Hour Comics, typically sells comics-related collectibles and vintage toys, but about 24 months back, he walked into a "garage sale" and stumbled onto a copy of AutoCAD, the professional design tool that Autodesk prices at roughly $4000 a pop - and he decided to sell that on eBay too.

Well, Autodesk got all huffy. The software maker chucked a DMCA claim at eBay, insisting that Vernor's AutoCAD auction was in violation of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). eBay promptly yanked the auction, but in an act of defiance rare among internet users, Vernor sent Whitman and company a counter-claim, insisting it put the auction back up. You know, he pulled a Chris Knight.

In doing so, Vernor risked legal action from Autodesk. The software maker had two weeks to either take Vernor to court or allow the auction back online. In this instance, the company backed down, but recently, when Vernor went to another "garage sale", found a few more copies of AutoCAD, and listed those onto eBay, the DMCA notices kept coming.

Vernor continued to counter-claim, but eventually, eBay put a hold on his account. "After four or five [DMCA] claims, they restricted my account, and I couldn't list any items for sale," Vernor said.

A month later, after an appeal to the online auction house, the account was restored. But Vernor is going ahead with that $10m lawsuit, which was officially served this week. In suspending his account, he claims, eBay cut off his sole source of revenue.

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