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RealTime IT News

eBay Protests Exec's Arrest Over Sex Tape Listing

UPDATED: Officials at San Jose, Calif.-based eBay expressed outrage after the head of its Indian operations was arrested over the weekend for a pornographic video file listed on its site.

Avnish Bajaj, Baazee.com country manager, was arrested Saturday after traveling to New Delhi to help authorities track down the source of the sale of a sex clip that appeared on the site in late November.

According to eBay officials, the clip was never shown on the site, and they removed the listing as soon as they became aware of its existence for violating the company's user agreement.

The eBay statement claims Bajaj and other Baazee.com employees had been cooperating with authorities to track down the original source of the video clip.

"The arrest was unexpected and completely unwarranted," an eBay statement over the weekend read. "It is unfortunate that local law enforcement has chosen to misdirect its energies towards Mr. Bajaj. eBay is working to secure Mr. Bajaj's release from jail as soon as possible."

The original seller, according to a report by the Khaleej Times, was arrested last week for listing the video clip on the Baazee.com site, though ambiguities in the nation's 2000 Information Technology Act were enough to convince a judge to place Bajaj in jail for a week without bail. According to the law in India, the report continues, a network service provider or Web site owner can't be held responsible if they respond to offenses promptly, though provisions within the act are open to interpretation.

Henry Gomez, an eBay spokesman, said the company is working with U.S. and Indian authorities to release Bajaj, who is set to be released Christmas Eve. The company was unable to secure his release after a hearing Sunday, but an appeals hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

"We're pretty active, both on the legal front and the diplomatic front, if you will, to try to secure his release," Gomez said. "We think we followed not only local law, but our own policy. We did everything that we should have done, and that any good company would do to follow the law and follow its policies."

One of the provisions within India's IT Act of 2000 states that "whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine," the act states.

However, a subsequent section reads that no network service provider should be held liable if they prove the offense was committed without their knowledge or that "he had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence or contravention," it states.

"The way the experts are saying it should be interpreted is that portals and sites like eBay should be exempted marketplaces -- should be exempted from that provision of the law," Gomez said.

Baazee.com, which is based in the United States with overseas subsidiaries, was acquired by eBay earlier this year, and according to its Web site, is the most popular online marketplace in India with more than one million registered members.