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.

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