Wikipedia founder calls for UK 'pirate' extradition to stop

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has stepped up to defend a British student who faces extradition to the U.S. over a link-site that operates "no differently to Google."
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor on

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has blasted the decision to extradite U.K. student Richard O'Dwyer, who faces a U.S. trial for alleged crimes that were committed on U.K. soil.

The U.S. Department of Justice wants to see the 23-year-old student extradited to face copyright offences.

According to U.S. prosecutors, his "victims" were in Hollywood and therefore should be extradited to face trial, despite a similar U.K. case ruling that such link-sites are not illegal only two years ago.

The 23-year-old student set up TV-Shack, a site that provided links to television and film content elsewhere on the Web. Not a single shred of copyrighted material was stored on his website.

O'Dwyer faces 10 years in prison should he be convicted by a U.S. court. (He could always take a leaf out of Julian Assange's book and make a run for the Ecuadorian embassy.)

Describing O'Dwyer as a "clean-cut, geeky kid" who he imagines as the sort of person who will end up "launching the next big thing on the Internet" in a piece for The Guardian, he considers the case against him to be "thin" and called it "an outrage that he is being extradited to the U.S. to face felony charges for something that he is not being prosecuted for here."

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 even took down links from his site when notified, complying with the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown system.

At the same time, Wales set up a Change.org petition to the U.K.'s Home Secretary Theresa May, who has the power to put a halt to the extradition.

It's not the first time Wales has intervened on a matter of political principle.

In January, in protest of the SOPA and PIPA bills presented before Congress, he blacked out Wikipedia for a day to simulate how a "censored" Web would harm the free and open speech of the site's online editors.

O'Dwyer's case opened up a whole new can of worms that could see any U.K. citizen facing extradition to the United States by simply tweeting a link to a copyrighted file on The Pirate Bay, for example.

May gave the go-ahead for O'Dwyer to be extradited, but remains at home pending an appeal to the High Court in London.

Image credit: Change.org.


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