A British computer science undergraduate is facing extradition to the United States after being accused of criminal copyright infringement.

23-year-old Richard O'Dwyer, of Sheffield Hallam University, ran the TVShack website, which offered links to illegal downloads of popular TV shows and movies, until November last year.

However, the site did not host any files and under UK law he could be protected. A case against the TV-Links website in 2010 was dismissed after a judge found that simply providing links was not an offence.

However US authorities want to try him on home soil, where he would be subject to stricter copyright laws, and a controversial US-UK accord offers the student little protection against extradition.

If convicted of illegal copyright infringement he could face up to five years in a US prison.

Shut down

Immediately following a visit from police and American officials in November, O'Dwyer shut down the site, but this week appeared at Westminster Magistrates court for an initial extradition hearing.

James Firth of the Open Digital Policy Organisationsays: "If it's an offence under UK law, then it has to be prosecuted and tested under UK law.

"If there is no offence under UK law, then there is no 'victim' to copyright infringement and no case for extradition."

Policy

The current US-UK extradition accord gives a judge no discretion over the best 'forum' for the trial, meaning they are unable to rule on which is the best place for a defendant to stand.

The controversial policy allowed the US to aggressively pursue the extradition of Pentagon hacker and Asperger's sufferer Gary McKinnon, who has spent years fighting the extradition order.

Isabella Sankey, director of Policy for Liberty, told the government has waited too long before amending the agreement to prevent further orders.

"The government hasn't acted in time. This is exactly what we warned against," she said.

"Enacting the forum amendment would have been quite simple. It's not that we're arguing that in every case where activity has taken place here we shouldn't allow people to be extradited.

But we should at least be leaving our judges some discretion to look at the circumstances."

Source: Guardian