Wikipedia Founder Fights Piracy Extradition

Dennis Faas's picture

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has joined a campaign to fight the extradition of a British man facing trial in the United States for online piracy offenses.

Richard O'Dwyer, accused of criminal behavior related to a site that linked to pirated TV shows, says he did not breach the law.

US officials want to formally charge O'Dwyer with copyright infringement and other charges. If convicted  in the US, he would face a maximum term of five years. In his own country, however, the equivalent crimes can be punished by a sentence of no more than six months.

The charges stem from a website named TVShack that O'Dwyer started in 2007, when he was just 19. TVShack did not host any video material, but offered links to other sites providing unauthorized copies of television shows.

O'Dwyer made money by selling advertisements on his website about those unauthorized copies.

US Government Seizes TVShack Address

Because TVShack was hosted at a '.net' address, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency seized control O'Dwyer's URL in 2010, through a US court order. O'Dwyer responded by registering a different web address, which officials seized five months later.

Last year, an American court formally charged O'Dwyer. The US embassy in the United Kingdom then asked for him to be extradited to the US for trial. In March, 2012, the British government agreed. O'Dwyer immediately filed an appeal. (Source:

Is Linking To Pirated Video A Crime?

O'Dwyer's appeal is based on two arguments:

First, extradition is allowed only for people accused of an action that is a crime in both countries. O'Dwyer's supporters say merely linking to a page hosting a pirated video is not illegal in the UK. O'Dwyer was merely providing information.

However, the judge who originally authorized the extradition said this exemption doesn't apply to people who intentionally offer links to illegal material.

Second, extradition is normally allowed only when the requesting country is the most appropriate place for the person to stand trial. O'Dwyer supporters argue that TVShack was hosted in Sweden, with no legal connection to the US.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has started circulating a petition asking British officials to reconsider their decision to authorize O'Dwyer's extradition.

Wales describes O'Dwyer as "the human face of the battle between the content industry and the interests of the general public." (Source:

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