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Friday, 17 June 2011

Richard O'Dwyer extradition to the US for UK-based links website: it's essential we stand up for our sovereign rights

Make a fuss on Twitter, #ODwyer
When I first blogged on Wednesday about an attempt to extradite Richard O'Dwyer, a 23-year-old student at Sheffield Hallam University, to face criminal copyright infringement charges in the US; facts were still scarce.

I credited Metro, but it turns out the Sheffield Star broke the story.  But it was unusual for a city paper or Metro to break a potentially huge news story; especially a tech story.  Credit to Chris Williams at the Telegraph for doing some proper digging over 2 days to establish some reasonably solid facts, and keeping me in the loop, so I'm confident good journalism, not churnalism, lies behind the Telegraph story.

Possibly the first blogger to comment; on the limited facts available, I was outraged.  I drew parallels with the failed attempt to prosecute OiNK administrator Sean Ellis last year in the UK, for what appeared to be similar charges.

Chris Williams confirms in his article that the allegations relate to mere links to infringing material, and solicitor David Cook, part of the defence team in the case against OiNK writes in the Telegraph about another links website TV-Links (which I also mentioned in my post on Wednesday!) to show how British law has failed to prosecute websites which merely link to pirated material.

But behind my outrage does not lie a desire to see copyright rules flouted online.

To understand the importance of the O'Dwyer story I need to make a clear distinction between the rights and wrongs of the copyright debate and the legal and political issues surrounding the case.

Note: parallels to the Gary McKinnon case are not helpful in explaining my position!

On examining the facts to hand this case looks like an attempt to apply a US federal law in the UK; and it's this alone that's plainly wrong.

Maybe it's retribution for UK courts' jurisdictional over-reach in libel tourism, which has seen several US states enact specific laws to nullify libel verdicts from UK courts!

To have an extradition we surely need a US victim (the Hollywood studios?) but to have a victim there needs to be a crime committed; and, since copyright laws apply on a country-by-country basis, the crime can only be committed in the country of residence.

A UK resident behaves according to UK law.  If a UK offence has been committed, then prosecution must occur in the UK to test the alleged offence against UK law.  Furthermore, there's nothing to stop alleged US "victims" pursuing a civil case against any defendant in through the courts.

On the other hand, if no offence has been committed under UK law, there is no victim.  It's as simple as that - because with copyright, different rules apply in different countries.

Some things can be (and are) legal in the US and unlawful in the UK, and vice-versa; e.g. different copyright terms apply, variations in rules governing translated works, different exemptions under fair dealing (UK) and fair use (US), etc.

There's no grey area as in the case of Gary McKinnon, where I can at least understand (but don't agree) with arguments that McKinnon is alleged to have caused "damage" to US-based computer services directly through his actions.

I've written about jurisdictional issues when developing policy to govern the internet, but I never thought for a minute one country - the US - would make an attempt to enforce its own laws in a foreign sovereign state.  This issue is of vital importance to British sovereignty and, unless new facts emerge proving some of my assumptions wrong, the extradition attempt simply must not be allowed to succeed.



  1. The 18th century privilege of copyright was already a corruption of our law (a right annulled in the majority, to be left, by exclusion in the hands of a few, is an instrument of injustice).

    It is the attempt to preserve and reinforce this corrupt law that spreads its corruption into the rest of the law.

    Wealthy and powerful publishing corporations have a fiduciary imperative to use ALL available means (however unethical) to preserve and reinforce their commercially lucrative monopoly that is, despite their efforts, coming inexorably to a natural end.

    You cannot simultaneously defend copyright and complain about consequential injustice, well, not without committing doublethink.

    Providing hyperlinks to sources of illicit copies of copyright works is not even an inducement to infringe, but an 'inducement' to receive illicit copies. Receiving illicit copies is not yet an infringement - ahem, or was only recently made into one.

    This extradition must be a stalking horse whose Yankee rider is fiercely rattling their sabre.

    Soon, there will attempts to establish laws against criticism of copyright...

  2. Thank you for writing this blog post on a very disturbing and troubling story.

    I must however, question your thinking about this.

    When you say "our sovereign rights" what exactly are you talking about? The Queen is sovereign in the UK, not the people. You agree that Parliament can make the laws, and that they are legitimised by the process of voting, so why are you complaining about this or any other law that you feel is unjust? All the laws they make are right because they were voted for in a Democracy of one man one vote.

    Surely you must be able to see that other people who do not like the laws that you happen to agree with, are as equally and rightfully outraged by the violation of their rights as you are when your rights are violated.

    This man should not be extradited. He has the right to publish information on his website; this is a fundamental right of property in the servers he owns and controls. No one has the right to come here from another jurisdiction, essentially kidnap him and then try him in their courts.

    If you agree with this statement, then you must also agree that the EU arrest warrant is unacceptable, membership in the EU itself is unacceptable and all the other treaties that no one or that only a voting majority have agreed to are acceptable, because they interfere with the rights of non violent people and as yet unborn generations.

    If you do not agree with that statement, then you have no grounds upon which to complain about this particular extradition request. Parliament has signed a treaty, you accept the basic premiss of majority rule, and so you must accept the will of Parliament without complaint. This is essentially what you are asking everyone else who has their own problems with immoral laws to do, so why should you not 'sit down and shut up thats the law, we live in a Democracy'?

    Until you accept that the entire system is broken, and all the treaties signed on your behalf with foreign bodies and powers are illegitimate, you don't have a leg to stand on when you complain about the single issues that make you upset.

  3. I never thought for a minute one country - the US - would make an attempt to enforce its own laws in a foreign sovereign state

    That's an extraordinary statement.

  4. I agree with your blog, I don't see why other countries outside the EU can even think to take our citizens on what surmounts to a civil matter of law. This offense is surely a commerical loss. The comapanies complaining are large, wealth and able to Influence the ear of law makers in the US or no more money in your campaigns!
    Richard is a young man who I guess thought he had found a 'middle man' plan to earn some money and not researched it properly or fully.
    Its bigger than a error of judgment but not a offence that should ruin his future life. No one died or was injuried. No one in the UK was taken to America from the banking sector lost all the money out of my pension and all those of the UK making mine and theirs future retirement bleek.
    He needs to learn and what better than a long community service outside his studies teaching computer science in a community workshop or school! If he goes to prison when we are letting rapist and burgular half their sentence if they say sorrry.
    Well good luck Richard O'dywer and I hope the UK press help.

  5. http://www.gopetition.co.uk/petitions/stop-extradition-fair-uk-trial-for-richard-o-dwyer.html


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