Briton Faces US Extradition For Copyright Crime UK Doesn’t Recognise!

UK courts have given the green light for a UK citizen to be extradited to the United States on controversial copyright infringement charges [1]. Pleads to Barack Obama to look over the case have been ignored.

Richard O’Dwyer, an IT student who ran the website, faces jail time in the US if convicted. But during a Q&A session on Google Hangout, Barack Obama refused to discuss the matter when it was brought to his attention by Mike Mozart of the JeepersMedia Youtube channel.

The President responded [2]:
“One of the ways our system works is that the president doesn’t get involved with prosecution decisions or extradition decisions and this has been a decision by the justice department.”

Not even when there appears to be a miscarriage of justice going on?

O’Dwyer faces two charges of copyright infringement (each carrying a maximum sentence of five years) for providing links to other websites that contained pirated TV shows, films and documentaries of US copyright holders. Despite O’Dwyer not pirating the material himself, nor hosting it on his website, The Southern District Court in New York is aiming for a conviction under the ambiguous term “authorizing copyright infringement”, something that is not yet applicable in the United Kingdom.

The case is particularly controversial for this and a number of other reasons. The legal definition of extradition is “the surrender of an alleged offender or fugitive to the state in whose territory the alleged offence was committed.”

O’Dwyer did not commit any crime within the United States. The server that hosted his website was based in Britain.

“The server was not based in the US at all,” said O’Dwyer’s barrister during the preliminary extradition hearing [3]. “Mr O’Dwyer did not have copyrighted material on his website; he simply provided a link. The essential contention is that the correct forum for this trial is in fact here in Britain, where he was at all times,” he concluded.

Regardless of whether Obama is ignoring the case, more worrying is that British authorities have so easily failed one of their own citizens.

Lib-Dem Sir Menzies Campbell challenged the legality of the extradition, based on UK law [4]:
“It seems anomalous to say the least that an action taking place in the United Kingdom which would not be regarded as criminal can justify extradition to the U.S.”

To be clear, copyright infringement is a crime in the UK, but we do not necessarily consider O’Dwyer’s actions to be copyright infringement.

The British trial of TV Links (a similar website) made it clear that the law is murky in this area. The owner of the site, David Rock, has never been charged.

If Rock cannot be charged in this country for the same alleged crime, why on earth are the courts sending O’Dwyer to another country where he can be charged? We don’t extradite people to Saudi Arabia for stoning, if they commit adultery in Britain, because it’s not a crime in Britain. Equally if something is a crime in Britain and somebody commits that crime in Britain, the accused is generally tried in Britain. If O’Dwyer should be tried at all, it should be on traditional copyright infringement charges here at home. Last time I checked Britain wasn’t an American State.

Lawyer Iain Connor, suggests US companies want to exploit this anomaly [5]:
“US companies are likely to try and secure a conviction in the US where they know that they could succeed on the basis of an offence of ‘authorising copyright infringement’ which in the UK is not a well defined offence.”

What makes the whole saga even more unjust is that America are picking and choosing who to go after (usually the little guy). Google and Youtube, two of the largest corporations in the world link to millions of copyrighted items. In fact Google’s very purpose is to link to other webpages. If you type the following in to Google you will find an illegal copy of the song “Thugz Mansion” by “2pac”.

inurl: 2pac Thugz Mansion “.mp3”

I clicked the 4th link.

There’s the song.

Forgive me but isn’t that also linking to other websites that contain copyrighted material?

The US are currently going gung-ho with copyright law, grossly overstepping their jurisdiction with proposed bills such as SOPA and PIPA. Unless other nations of the world stand up for themselves we may end up with an Internet dictatorship.

A bizarre system that has gone unchecked by the the rest of the world, means just one American company has control over all top level generic domain names like .com or .net. Whenever anyone purchases one of these domains, it goes through Verisign, a corporation based in the state of Virginia [6]. This allows the US Government to essentially delete any website it feels like from the Internet, and they’ve begun doing so. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized O’Dwyer’s web address last July [7], without asking permission of UK authorities.

The only way to remain protected is to use a country specific domain like, however if trying to reach a global audience .com or .net are universally recognized, and the dangers are not widely explained.

Furthermore the poorly written UK Extradition Act 2003, shockingly does not safeguard UK citizens from any extradition request from the United States.

“The treaty was entered in to in the post 9/11 period when there was great anxiety about terrorism and a determination to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States,” said sir Campbell [8]. “It was never intended for cases like that of Richard O’Dwyer.”

All American authorities have to do is provide reasonable suspicion of a crime and we open up the gates [9]. It seems it doesn’t matter what that crime is. nor whether we consider it a crime.

Long live the British Justice system.

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