Student movie pirate to face US extradition
Published 13/01/2012 | 16:24
A UK student who created a website which helped people watch films and TV shows for free can be extradited to the US to face copyright infringement allegations, a court ruled today.
Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate Richard O'Dwyer, 23, allegedly earned thousands of pounds through advertising on the TVShack website before it was closed down by the US authorities.
He faces jail if convicted of the allegations, which were brought following a crackdown by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
His lawyer Ben Cooper has argued that the site did not store copyright material itself and merely pointed users to other sites, in the same way that Google and Yahoo operate.
Mr Cooper also claimed his client would be the first British citizen to be extradited for such an offence and would effectively become a "guinea pig" for copyright law in the US.
His mother Julia O'Dwyer, from Chesterfield, has described the action as "beyond belief" and the UK's extradition treaty with the US as "rotten".
But District Judge Quentin Purdy ruled today at Westminster Magistrates' Court that the extradition could go ahead.
Mr Cooper indicated he would appeal against the ruling.
O'Dwyer, who wore a grey shirt and blue jeans, showed no emotion as the ruling was made.
His mother Julia criticised Britain's extradition treaty with the US.
She said after the hearing: "If they want to prosecute something they will.
"There's no safeguards here for British citizens."
She also claimed the District Judge did not have the "technical brains to know about the whole thing".
She added: "That guy just lives and breathes extradition."
District Judge Purdy said in his ruling: "There are said to be direct consequences of criminal activity by Richard O'Dwyer in the USA albeit by him never leaving the north of England.
"Such a state of affairs does not demand a trial here if the competent UK authorities decline to act and does, in my judgment, permit one in the USA."
He added: "I reject all challenges advanced to this request. No bars or other challenge being raised or found, I send the case to the Secretary of State."
He continued: "On November 29 2010 City of London Police arrested Richard O'Dwyer, seizing two computers.
"In interview, relied on in the US request, he is said to have accepted owning TVShack.net and TVShack.cc, earning approximately £15,000 per month from online advertisements hosted on those sites.
"He also said that TVShack.cc was not receiving as much traffic as TVShack.net, but was slowly rebuilding its popularity."
District Judge Purdy said he was satisfied that the alleged conduct would constitute an offence in UK law.
He added that the prospect of a serious criminal trial was "obviously alarming".
He went on: "Trial abroad in any foreign land is, plainly, even more daunting.
"However, enforcement of cross-border criminal justice is intended, in part at least, to ensure alleged victims of crime and the wider public confidence in criminal justice is not thwarted by national borders."