A 23-year old UK student is to be extradited to the USA to face trial for operating a UK-based website linking to copyright materials.
Richard O'Dwyer of Sheffield Hallam University in northern England had a website, TVShack. The website did not violate any laws in the UK where he lived and operated it.
The United States claims that the website infringed on American copyright legislation by linking to copyright protected material.
Despite appeals in the UK, Richard is to be extradited to the USA to be tried for his crime.
RT reports that the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement department first seized O’Dwyer’s website, TVShack.com, in June 2010. At that time, they were able to shut down the website as the US has jurisdiction over any .net and .com domain names. This prompted O'Dwyer to relaunch his website with a .cc domain extension shortly after the website was shut down.
Within a matter of months, the authorities were back on O'Dwyer's case over the revamped website. This happened in November and the boy’s mother explained to Ars Technica at the time, "One of them said 'Don't worry, you won't have to go to America.'"
However, just less than a year later, the US has opened a new investigation and has filed extradition papers against O'Dwyer and he will shortly be in front of an American judge.
On Tuesday, the UK Home Secretary agreed to extradite the young man after the Westminster Magistrates' Court ruled in January that shipping him to America to face charges would be an option on the table.
O'Dwyer told the BBC Newsbeat in the UK that: "I've done nothing wrong under UK law, and, it's pretty ridiculous isn't it? A 65-year-old man was extradited a few weeks ago, so if they can extradite someone that old they can extradite anyone really, couldn't they?"
"Copyright laws differ between countries and that's yet to be fought, that argument."
Despite the fact that copyright laws differ between the USA and the UK, the US believes that O’Dwyer was in the wrong, as far as they are concerned.
The website, TVShack sold advertising space and, according to American officials, netted more than $230,000 before American agents first shut it down. It provided users with links to other websites which would take visitors to external and unaffiliated pages. These pages often streamed copyrighted material including American television programs, which are protected by US law.
There are similarities between O’Dwyer’s case and that of Megaupload.com founder Kim Dotcom, who is facing a possible extradition from New Zealand to the US over his own site. Dotcom's site provided file-sharing services for users and made money selling ads and subscriptions.
Unlike Megaupload.com, however, O’Dwyer did not physically host any illegal material or allow users to commit crimes by uploading copyrighted items.
All O’Dwyer did was to manage a website that contained links to other websites, something his attorney says is on pretty much on par with the services Google offers.
O'Dwyer's mother, Julia, told the BBC that for Richard "the decision doesn't feel very real, it's just a nightmare".
"If Richard appears to have committed a crime in this country - then try him in this country,” Ms. O'Dwyer tells the BBC today. She adds that she believes that her son was “sold down the river” by the government and cautions others to be wary of UK officials siding with pressure from the US.
"It's disgusting. Next time it may be your son. I urge everyone who cares about unfair extradition to write to their MP and insist this disreputable law is changed,” adds Ms. O’Dwyer.