Copyrights and Extradition
Beware, foreign copyright-infringers. Last week the United States announced that it was attempting to extradite 23-year-old U.K. citizen Richard O’Dwyer. O’Dwyer was the administrator of TVShack.net and TVShack.cc websites which provided links to pirated television shows and movies. These sites were seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement last year, and now the U.S. is seeking to bring O’Dwyer to the U.S. to face charges.
This is not the first time, nor will it likely be the last, that the U.S. has sought extradition of someone over copyright infringement. Australian Hew Griffiths, the head of a software piracy ring, was extradited to the U.S. in 2007 and received a 51 month jail sentence (though he was given credit for time served in Australia while fighting extradition).
However, Griffiths participated in a very different kind of internet piracy than O’Dwyer did. While Griffiths was behind an operation cracking protection codes on software, music and movies; O’Dwyer’s site simply linked to pirated material. In fact, U.K. solicitor David Cook argued that it would be difficult to convict O’Dwyer under European law. Although the details are not clear, it appears O’Dwyer’s site did not host or transmit any of the pirated content, but merely linked to it.
This reaches a question in the internet-piracy battle. Should the United States go after the O’Dwyer-s of the world? Yes, O’Dwyer did facilitate illegal-movie watching and is part of a larger problem of internet piracy. But, if he did not post or host any of the copyrighted material himself, is the U.S. overreaching in attempting to have O’Dwyer extradited? Perhaps the fact that O’Dwyer was persistent in violating copyright laws – he continued reposting the site after it was taken down multiple times – should be taken into account.
Cases such as O’Dwyer’s lead to the recurring problem of the internet and jurisdiction. How do you determine who, where, and what to charge? If the person is in one country, the material is from another, and the servers are in a third, what is the most appropriate venue? If you repeatedly help others find pirated material, are you at fault? It seems like what prosecutors are trying to change is the image of internet piracy; saying that it’s not okay to participate in copyright infringement on any level.
This problem may in fact solve itself. While the U.S. Government cuts heads off the Hydra, some CEOs are trying to turn a profit from pirated technology, or take over the internet market themselves. For now, a combination of innovation and prosecution are the best tools of those fighting internet piracy.