Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has called for a political intervention to prevent the extradition of TVShack.net founder Richard O’Dwyer. Wales told the Guardian that O’Dwyer has become the “human face” of a battle being waged between the “content industry” and the general public. If extradited to the U.S.A. he faces up to 10 years in jail for two counts: criminal infringement of copyright; and conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.
Wales’ words have already urged some 22,267 to sign a change.org petition (find it here) that he set up asking home secretary Theresa May to rethink the extradition that sees O’Dwyer in this predicament. He added that “given the state of U.S. internet law it is extremely difficult to see how he can be convicted of copyright violation”.
He added: “Together, we won the battle against Sopa and Pipa. Together we can win this one too.”
Later in the day Tom Watson MP, one of those at the forefront of the culture and media select committee looking at phone hacking at News International, was another to add their name to the growing tide of opposition to the extradition. He held up O’Dwyer as an example of younger people being “hung out to dry by lawmakers” and that it will “undermine public confidence in an important treaty designed to combat terrorism.”
Watson added: “Mr O’Dwyer’s situation can be sorted out with common sense at the top of the UK government and US administration. But how many more bright youngsters will have their lives turned upside down because we haven’t reached a new copyright settlement that understands the internet is here to stay?”
The extradition agreement that sees O’Dwyer being forcibly removed was signed in 2003 by the then U.K. and U.S. leaders Tony Blair and George Bush – we can only assume whilst Blair chased Bush round the room like an excitable puppy. The Extradition Act 2003 makes it a requirement for the U.K. to hand over evidence before an extradition takes place whereas the U.S. only has to prove a “reasonable suspicion” of crime.
O’Dwyer being extradited could set a dangerous precedent in the future and it’s something that one gaming industry legal expert, Peter Wilson, pointed to as something for affiliates to watch out for. The ease with which they managed to obtain an extradition order is something to be incredibly wary about and if this goes ahead it will be bad news on so many levels.
It’s a good thing that the likes of Wales and Watson are behind O’Dwyer’s campaign and the protests against SOPA and PIPA earlier this year just go to show that fierce public opposition can make a difference.