According to one UK judge, the answer is yes, a UK citizen can be extradited to the United States for alleged copyright infringement.
Richard O’Dwyer, 23, ran TVShack, which listed links to locations of files that users could illegally download. United States authorities reportedly shut down TVShack.net in the summer of 2010, but O’Dwyer reopened shop as TVShack.cc; the latter domain was seized in November 2010, and O’Dwyer’s mum says her son shut down the site when the UK police got in touch.
In O’Dwyer’s defense, his lawyer Ben Cooper compared the TVShack site to popular search engines like Yahoo and Google, insisting that O’Dwyer just pointed users to where they were already looking to go. Moreover, Cooper argued, the alleged copyright violations aren’t even against UK law.
Still, District Judge Quentin Purdy ruled that “[t]here 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” and that, since UK authorities would not act, a trial in the US was permissible.
Does allowing the extradition of O’Dwyer to the United States on copyright infringement charges sound like a bit of a stretch of the extradition treaty between the US and the UK to you? If so, you’re not alone. Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell (UK) contends the treaty was “never intended” for use in such circumstances — especially since O’Dwyer is not alleged to have broken UK law.
There will likely be an appeal of the extradition decision, so we will just have to wait and see whether O’Dwyer will truly become a “guinea pig” for United States copyright law as his lawyer has suggested. This case will also be interesting to watch as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has just been shelved by the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, though the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate lives on.
How do you think copyright and the Internet should intersect? What about across country lines? How would you feel if you were airlifted to Jolly Old England for doing something that’s completely legal here in the US?