TV-Shack extradition approved: Every UK citizen is now at risk

TV-Shack extradition approved: Every UK citizen is now at risk

Summary: British student Richard O'Dwyer will be extradited after the Home Secretary approved the court's decision. All British citizens are now at risk of a similar fate.


UK Home Secretary Theresa May has approved the extradition of 23-year-old British student Richard O'Dwyer to face copyright infringement charges in the U.S. --- even though his alleged crimes were not committed there, and UK law dictates that his actions are not illegal.

The extradition paves the way for other Britons to be sent to the United States to face similar charges, setting a dangerous precedence for civil liberties.

O'Dwyer set up TV-Shack, an aggregator website that provided links to third-party sites where television shows and movies were available for streaming. No copyrighted content was hosted on servers he owned.

The servers were based in Sweden, but the .com domain name was under the jurisdiction of the United States. It has recently been noted that the U.S. government can seize domains even if they were registered outside of the U.S. because these registrars are either owned or operated by U.S.-based companies.

Once the domain was seized, O'Dwyer set up a .cc domain name, but this was seized once again because U.S.-based Verisign operates the Keeling Islands' top-level domain name.

The domain names were seized, and the site was shut down by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The U.S. government agency claimed the site generated more than $230,000 (£147,000) in advertising revenue.

Following his arrest, he was warned he could face trial in the United States. O'Dwyer faces up to five years in a U.S. prison if convicted. He is expected to appeal, and the case could end up at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

A UK government spokesperson confirmed the request, and said the Home Secretary had "carefully considered all relevant matters" before approving the extradition.

Four conditions need to be met to refuse extradition, including if a British citizen faces the death penalty. One lawyer said speaking to ZDNet: "She had no choice but to grant the extradition." Today was more of a formality than anything, but until he exhausts all his appeal options, he will not be put on a plane to the United States.

And here's where the danger starts.

Lawyers for the U.S. government weakly claimed that the "victims" of O'Dwyer's alleged crimes --- the television and film studios --- were based in the U.S. and should therefore be tried there. It was also claimed that "access to the website took place in the U.S.", failing to recognise that the global inter-connected network of computers that runs the Web means that, bar governmental censorship, every websites is available to every country in the world.

But it was argued that the site was "no different to Google" in how it operated. In practical, objective terms, the site was no different to Google, or any other search engine for that matter.

O'Dwyer's lawyer Ben Cooper said during his client's trial that he would become a "guinea pig" for U.S. copyright laws. Previously, such a site was not illegal.

A court dismissed a case in 2010 where a similar site TV-Links was deemed to have not committed any offence under UK law. European law says that Internet firms like search engines may be granted legal protection from copyright infringement suits if they have little or no influence over the material they link to.

As the extradition has been approved, every British citizen is now at risk for a similar offence. This means that any British citizen who tweets or blogs a link to a file-sharing or peer-to-peer website where copyrighted materials are sourced, could face extradition under UK law.

But as the Telegraph reports, the judge in O'Dwyer's extradition hearing ruled that he was "intimately involved in deciding who was allowed to post links" on the site, allegations which were comparable under UK copyright law.

Welcome to the United States of Great Britain, where once again a third-country's legislation takes over the law of the land.

Image credit: CrunchBase.


Topics: Government US, Government

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  • Interesting.

    Very interesting.
  • As a US Citizen

    I feel that the extradition approval by UK Home Secretary Theresa May is crap. The crime was not committed on US soil and was not a crime according to UK law. It's like if a UK citizen used a firearm made in the US to rob a pub - should that citizen be extradited to the US because a US manufactured firearm was used? IMHO it's the same thing with a web domain. The servers were not in the US, Richard O???Dwyer was not in the US... like I said it's crap. It's the governments caving in to the demands of the RIAA and the MPAA.
    • Its coming to your country as well

      The equivalent policy is due to be passed by your congress at some point but is being held up by the American-Irish lobby due to fears that the UK will want all those who funded terrorists (the IRA) to be sent here to be tried

      My sympathy for this particular person is limited however as missing from the article above is the fact that the re set up site URL was f**k the police, poking the bear is never a particularly intelligent move
  • It's called an extradition treaty. The U.S. has them with the UK as well

    meaning a U.S. citizen who broke the law in the UK while residing in the United States could be extradited to the UK even though he broke no U.S. law.
  • So let's see if I got this?

    1) He set up servers in Sweden. Thus he knew he was running afoul of some laws somewhere?
    2) When his first site was shut down, thereby confirming that his site was running afould of someone's laws, he set up another one?! Because, you know, that's the obvious thing to do when you have the attention of a foreign government, DARE them to do something about it.
    3) He made a decent payday for his activities. A true humanitarian versus all those evil profit-seeking corporations whos work he was profiting off of.
    4) We all shocked (!) that his repeated (and profitable) violations actually caught someone's attention. "Whoops I guess this isn't a scene from Braveheart when I get to moon the other guys army then beat the snot out of them." :(
    5) We're equally shocked (!) that a UK court agrees with the US court request. *gasp* "what do you mean we're not allowed to profit off of someone else's work?"
    6) We envision entire plane loads of kids and grandmas being air-lifted to the US for criminal processing.
    • missing one point

      2) when setting up the second site he used the url f**k the police but never knew that he was in any way doing something illegal
  • Does this mean ...

    ... if a US citizen breaks the law while in the US, via (for example) speech deemed illegal by a foreign state, the US may extradite the person to the foreign state? If the US government believes in fairness, then that is exactly what it is morally obligated to do. I believe there are countless laws US citizens (including Internet corporations) break in other countries while online, and the US is setting a dangerous precedent, of countries not protecting their citizens - but instead giving them up to others. I believe at the most, a country should be able petition another, to block access by one of its citizens, to its country online, via the Internet.
    P. Douglas
    • If its illegal in the UK possibly

      The revised extradition treaty with the UK is due to pass through congress at some point you may want to look out for it
  • What a load of crap.

    UK government extradites almost 5 times as many UK nationals to US than come in the opposite direction. UK government needs to stop being whipping boys.
    • Agree

      This is the government people in the UK vote for. If they choose to be lap dogs then so be it.

      Right, Zack? ;)
  • Damn it...

    I hope they don't shut down the Euro-sites I use to watch whichever NFL game I want to watch instead of the garbage "local market" team they force feed us.
    Hallowed are the Ori