Piracy’ student Richard O’Dwyer loses extradition case

Uploaded by on Jan 13, 2012

TVShack’s student founder can be extradited to US, court rules

US customs agents seek to prosecute Richard O’Dwyer over TVShack, which linked to sites carrying pirated shows and films

Richard O’Dwyer with his mother Julia after appearing at Westminster magistrates court in London. Photograph: Luke Macgregor/Reuters

A British student can be extradited to the United States for running a website linking to sites carrying pirated TV shows and films, a court has ruled.

Richard O’Dwyer, a 23-year-old student at Sheffield Hallam University, looked downward as district judge Quentin Purdy ruled that there were no valid reasons why he could not be sent to New York state for trial.

US customs agents are seeking his prosecution over a website O’Dwyer set up when he was 19 called TVShack, and ran until his arrest last year. This provided links to other sites hosting pirated versions of TV shows and film. It was so popular that the student earned £15,000 per month in advertising revenue, US prosecutors claim.

O’Dwyer’s lawyers said the site was little different from a search engine like Google and was thus most likely not illegal under UK law.

However, Purdy noted that visitors to the site had to register, and could post their own links. He ruled that the case met the test of so-called dual liability, also dismissing arguments that extradition would be a breach of O’Dwyer’s human rights.

The student, whose father, Peter, is a retired GP in Bolsover, Derbyshire, remains on bail and will appeal.

His mother, Julia, wept outside Westminster magistrates court following the decision and condemned the controversial 2003 extradition treaty between the UK and US as unbalanced.

“Look at how many people we send over there, and how few come here,” she said. “If they can come for Richard they can come for anyone.” O’Dwyer’s family and other supporters say his case is similar to that of Gary McKinnon, the computer hacker who has spent years fighting US extradition.

They argue that any alleged offence should be tried in the UK. A parliamentary measure to include a “forum clause” in the extradition treaty, allowing a judge to examine where a case should best be heard, has been passed by both houses but not yet enacted.

The government needed to act, said Julia O’Dwyer. “David Cameron and Nick Clegg came into office saying they would fix this law,” she said. “They need to pull their fingers out.”

Separately, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has faced criticism for perceived over-reach, targeting websites which, like TVShack — which had servers in the Netherlands — have no direct link to America.

In July the agency’s assistant deputy director told the Guardian that ICE would now actively pursue websites similar to TVShack even if their only connection to the US was a website address ending in .com or .net. Such suffixes are routed through Verisign, an internet infrastructure company based in Virginia, which the agency believes is sufficient to seek a US prosecution.

SOURCE: http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/jan/13/tvshack-student-founder-extradition

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