Contact Law blog

UK student facing extradition to US over piracy

The founder of a website which pointed people in the direction of free movies and television shows who is due to be extradited to the US later this year is the subject of large public support.

A poll by YouGov shows that only 9% of the public agree Mr O’Dwyer should be tried in the US, according to The Guardian.

Richard O’Dwyer, 24, started the website in 2007.  The website linked to other sites where pirated content of movies, television shows and music could be downloaded.

In June 2010, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers seized the domain, at which point the site was moved to the domain.

Then, in November of the same year, another operation by the ICE seized the domain and O’Dwyer was visited by UK and US police officers.

In May 2011 an extradition request by the US Department of Justice asked for the extradition of Mr O’Dwyer following two charges of criminal copyright infringement. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

This is the first interesting aspect of the case. While O’Dwyer was linking to copyrighted material and clearly knew what he was doing wasn’t entirely legal, he doesn’t appear to have been responsible for infringing any copyright himself.

The site carried the disclaimer: “TV Shack is a simple resource site. All content visible on this site is located at 3rd party websites. TV Shack is not responsible for any content linked to or referred from these pages.”

He was certainly assisting others to infringe copyright; however, he seems to have been charged as if he was providing the copyrighted material himself.

After a hearing about the extradition in January 2012, a judge ruled that O’Dwyer could be extradited to face the charges. Theresa May approved the extradition in March, and an appeal was lodged a short time later.

Last month Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and The Guardian launched a campaign to stop the extradition, saying that he shouldn’t be extradited as he isn’t being prosecuted for anything in the UK.

However, the judge in the extradition trial ruled that as he decided who could post links to copyrighted material on his site, he did commit an offence under the laws of the UK.

The jurisdiction of the case is also being brought into question. O’Dwyer’s backers believe that as he has never set foot in the US, and his site wasn’t hosted on US servers, the US doesn’t have jurisdiction over the case.

The Department of Justice believes that because the copyright owners are US companies, it is their jurisdiction.

It’s definitely an interesting situation and one to be watched closely. The appeal is due to be heard in the High Court later this year, and with a petition to the Home Office receiving more than 200,000 signatures in two weeks you can expect this to receive more coverage in the weeks to come.

Theresa May has the power to halt the extradition treaty, but we’ll have to wait and see what Ms May decides to do.

Original story:

The Guardian

Related article:

Website-hosting university student faces extradition to the UK

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