|Make a fuss on Twitter, #ODwyer|
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.