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Judge Rules British Student Can Be Extradited

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Richard O’ Dwyer, who ran TVShack.net, loses appeal against extradition

A judge has ruled that a British student accused of copyright infringement can be extradited to the US.

Richard O’ Dwyer, a student at Sheffield Hallam University, lost his case at Westminster magistrates court and could face up to five years in jail if he is found guilty.

Appeal likely

O’ Dwyer faces charges of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and criminal infringement of copyright after he set up the website TVShack.net, which hosted links to films and TV programmes.

UK and US police offers seized computer equipment from his home in November 2010, but he wasn’t arrested until May last year, when the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) seized his server  and he was taken to Wandsworth prison before bail of £3,000 was paid.

ICE alleges that TVShack.net earned “over $230,000” (£150,000) before the domain name was seized in June 2010, however his lawyer Ben Cooper has indicated that O’ Dwyer will appeal as the website did not host copyrighted material but instead redirected users to other sites in a similar fashion to Google.

Cooper says that the server wasn’t based in the US at all and contends that the trial should be held in the UK, where O’ Dwyer was at all times. If he is extradited, O’ Dwyer would face harsher copyright laws, while he would also be cut off from legal funding.

‘Rotten’ Treaty

O’ Dwyer’s mother said that the moves by the American authorities were “beyond belief” and that the UK’s extradition treaty was rotten. Cooper added that the student was a “guinea pig” for copyright law in the US as he would be the first to be extradited for such an offence.

The case echoes that of Gary McKinnon, who Cooper also represents, who has been fighting extradition to the US after he hacked into 97 military and NASA systems in a bid to find out secret information about aliens and UFOs. His case has led to calls to renegotiate the treaty as it is argued that McKinnon, who has Asperger Syndrome, would not receive a fair trial in the US.

However ICE has defended its actions, saying that website owners with .com or .net addresses could face extradition, even if the activity was legal in the UK. It’s reasoning is that the addresses are routed through American internet infrastructure owner Verisign, based in Virginia.