Jimmy Wales Calls On Government To Halt O’Dwyer Extradition

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has launched a campaign to stop the extradition of TVShack.net creator Richard O’Dwyer.

O’Dwyer, a 24-year-old student from Sheffield, is alleged to have committed copyright offences in the US and is facing extradition to the US.

UK charges against O-Dwyer were dropped before he was handed an extradition notice. In January, a judge ruled he could be extradited to the US, where he would face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.

Home secretary Theresa May signed off the extradition in March, but now that decision is coming up against fierce opposition, with Wales leading the way.

Guilty or not?

Many believe TVShack.net did not commit any copyright offences as it linked to sites where video could be downloaded, but did not offer the downloading function directly. It essentially acted as a search service for video content, sometimes leading to unauthorised sites, but other times to legitimate ones.

Others are aggrieved at the fact that O’Dwyer is not facing charges here, where the alleged offences took place. TVShack.net was not hosted in the US either.

Wales took a somewhat different tack, issuing a clarion call for defenders of the free web to get behind a petition and ask the home secretary to keep O’Dwyer in the UK.

“The internet as a whole must not tolerate censorship in response to mere allegations of copyright infringement. As citizens we must stand up for our rights online,” Wales wrote, on the Change.org petition page.

“When operating his site, Richard O’Dwyer always did his best to play by the rules: on the few occasions he received requests to remove content from copyright holders, he complied. His site hosted links, not copyrighted content, and these were submitted by users.

“Copyright is an important institution, serving a beneficial moral and economic purpose. But that does not mean that copyright can or should be unlimited. It does not mean that we should abandon time-honoured moral and legal principles to allow endless encroachments on our civil liberties in the interests of the moguls of Hollywood.

“Richard O’Dwyer is the human face of the battle between the content industry and the interests of the general public. Earlier this year, in the fight against the anti-copyright bills SOPA and PIPA, the public won its first big victory. This could be our second.”

The petition has already received 12,610 signatures. The 24-year-old’s mother has been campaigning vehemently in support of her son’s battle against extradition.

“This is not only a matter of British national importance but of global importance too,” she wrote in support of the petition. “We so appreciate Jimmy Wales launching this petition in support of Richard, to have such support and endorsement from such a knowledgeable and respected figure is fantastic.”

Extradition rules in the UK are under scrutiny too. Earlier this year, the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee claimed the extradition treaty between the UK and the US was not protecting the rights of British citizens.

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Thomas Brewster

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

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