Wikipedia Founder Starts Petition To Keep British Student Accused of Piracy From Being Extradited to U.S.

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 26 2012 11:30 AM

Wikipedia Founder Starts Petition To Keep British Student Accused of Piracy From Being Extradited to U.S.

Richard O'Dwyer goes to court over his possible extradition in January 2012
Richard O'Dwyer goes to court over his possible extradition in January 2012

Photo by CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is taking up the cause of a British university student facing extradition to the U.S. for creating a link-sharing website, reports ArsTechnica.

In his online petition at Change.org, Wales refers to 24-year-old Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate Richard O’Dwyer as the “human face of the battle between the content industry and the interests of the general public.”

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O'Dwyer’s legal headaches stem from a website he ran called TVShack.net, which featured user-posted links to television shows and films. Back in late 2010, O’Dwyer was arrested in his dorm room. The next day, TVShack.net was replaced with a seizure banner from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, followed by YouTube-hosted anti-piracy PSA.

In March, the United States' request for extradition was approved by Member of Parliament Theresa May. O’Dwyer’s attorneys appealed shortly after, and a hearing at London’s Royal Courts of Justice was set for July 30 or 31. However, this has been delayed, with no new date set, reports the BBC.

Wales’ petition notes that O’Dwyer’s site never hosted the actual copyright-infringing content, just links, and that he immediately complied with the few requests he received from copyright holders to remove content. Further, he argues that the United States has no jurisdiction over O'Dwyer’s actions. “O'Dwyer is not a US citizen, he's lived in the UK all his life, his site was not hosted there, and most of his users were not from the US,” he writes. “America is trying to prosecute a UK citizen for an alleged crime which took place on UK soil.”

Some British politicians are taking O’Dwyer’s side, including Tim Farron, president of the Liberal Democrats, and Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, which deals with immigration and security in the United Kingdom.

Labour MP Tom Watson told the Guardian  O’Dwyer’s case is an example of “a younger generation being hung out to dry by lawmakers.” Its approval, Watson cautioned, could undermine public confidence of the 2003 U.S./U.K. Extradition Treaty, which has its own long-standing history of controversy. Since its enactment critics have claimed its policies unfairly favor United States interests over those of the United Kingdom.

So far, more than 55,000 have signed Wales’ petition in support of O’Dwyer.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

David Sydiongco is a Future Tense intern.

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