The story begins in the Manhattan Federal Court on 30th June, 2010. This court authorised the seizure of seven websites for copyright infringements. The sites were all allegedly involved in the illegal sharing of American films over the internet.
One of these websites was TVshack.net, a site set up by a Barnsley student, Richard O'Dwyer, who is studying computing at Sheffield Hallam University.
According to the US Attorney: "TVSHACK.NET, also a linking site, advertises itself as
a user-friendly video sharing site. TVSHACK.NET's homepage contains a list of the seven movies and television shows -- all copyrighted and being distributed by TVSHACK.NET without authorization -- that are most popular with the website's users. Among the most popular copyrighted movies and shows distributed by TVSHACK.NET, each of which are viewed thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands, of times per day, are "Sex and the City 2,"
"The A Team," "Get Him To The Greek," and "Iron Man 2." TVSHACK.NET had approximately 486,000 visitors per month as of May 2010."
O'Dyer was arrested last month at the request of the American court and now faces extradition to the US. This will take place under the controversial 2003 extradition agreement with the US. This allows UK citizens to be extradited to the US if they have committed an offence under US Law without providing any reciprocal arrangement for the UK. If O'Dwyer is convicted, he is likely to spend 5 years in prison in the States.
O'Dwyer's site contained no files that were under the copyright of any corporation. It merely provided links to copies of these films. The server containing the site was not in America. Moreover, some commentators doubt whether he has committed an offence under UK law. According to the Open Digital Policy Organisation:
"If no offence has been committed under UK law, there is no victim. It's as simple as that - because with copyright, different rules apply in different countries."
O'Dwyer spend one night in prison before being bailed. He next appears in court in London on 12th September.
This case raises numerous questions:
Why hasn't the UK Government amended the 2003 extradition treaty to give UK citizens the same rights as their American counterparts?
How can copyright be infringed on a site that contains no copyrighted material?
Why shouldn't this case be tried in this country?
UK Computing schools should petition to have the case heard in this country.