U.S. wins appeal against alleged pirate

Suspected leader of DrinkorDie won't face fair fight if extradited from Australia to United States, lawyer contends.
Written by U.S. wins appeal against pirate, Contributor
An Australian man facing extradition to the United States over online-piracy charges will find it extremely difficult to defend himself should the U.S. efforts succeed, his lawyer asserts.

Antony Townsden, a Legal Aid Commission lawyer representing Hew Raymond Griffiths, said his client would have a tough time finding legal representation and accessing materials if he is extradited. Townsden made the assertions after the United States won its latest legal battle with Griffiths and he returned to jail in Sydney this week.

U.S. authorities won an appeal against an earlier court finding in March that there was no extraditable offense.

"The question there is...why is he not being processed in this country?" Townsden said. "There is a feeling that he is being head-hunted by the U.S. authorities."

Griffiths is the only alleged member of the software piracy group DrinkorDie whose extradition is being sought, Townsden said.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, DrinkorDie illegally copied and distributed more than $50 million worth of pirated software, movies, games and music before U.S. investigators raided the group in 2001. Griffiths allegedly was the group's top leader.

Several members of the group--which allegedly specialized in "cracking" software by getting around embedded copyright protections and distributing it via the Internet--have already been convicted in the United States, while others face charges in Britain.

"I think it's an unfortunate situation," Townsden said. "A number of people from the U.S. are dealt with in the U.S., and those from the U.K. are dealt with in the U.K. The only person we are aware of in the whole group where extradition has been sought is an Australian. I think it's good enough to say they might find it easier to get (a) prosecution if it's in another country."

Townsden also accused Australian authorities of hiding behind the legal definition of "citizen." Griffiths arrived in Australia from the United Kingdom when he was 7 years old and has never left the country. Townsden said he does not know what Griffiths' citizenship is but that Griffiths consider himself an Australian.

If the extradition and prosecution in the United States succeeds, Griffiths faces up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $500,000. Townsden said that under Australian copyright laws, Griffiths faces a maximum sentence of five years.

Griffiths was indicted last year for one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and one count of copyright infringement.

Townsden said Griffiths' legal team is seeking further advice for grounds to appeal within 15 days.

Kristyn Maslog-Levis of ZDNet Australia reported from Syndey.

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