Richard O'Dwyer, 23, a British student, could face a prison sentence in the U.S., for something which isn't even an offence under British law, after losing an extradition appeal on Friday.
O'Dwyer is accused of providing information about Web sites that allow for the illegal download of films and television programmes. His Web site - TVShack - was run from the bedroom of his on-campus accommodation; he is a student of software programming at the Sheffield Hallam University.
The allegations were first made by U.S. authorities and reports said the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency was looking to put O'Dwyer on trial for two counts of breaching copyright; each count carries a maximum of five years of imprisonment.
According to The Wrap, American and British officials seized O'Dwyer's computers in November, 2010, amid claims he earned over $230,000 in advertising revenue.
O'Dwyer, his family and his lawyer have been fighting the U.S.' extradition request. Their case was, however, dismissed after a judge in the Westminster magistrates' court ruled there was no legal way to prevent sending the accused to trial. Julia O'Dwyer, the young student's mother, burst into tears, saying the rotten U.S./UK extradition treaty needed an immediate fix. O'Dwyer's parents further added they felt their son was being used as a guinea pig, since there was no legal precedent for extradition on allegations such as this one.
Ben Cooper, O'Dwyer's lawyer, argued TVShack did not store copyrighted material and simply pointed users to other sites, much like Google and other Internet search engines. Furthermore, according to legal experts, O'Dwyer's actions were not a crime in the UK, since he did not download anything himself. However, the quiet and vulnerable son of a General Physician could be sent to a high-security American jail for 10 years, the Daily Mail said.
O'Dwyer's case is disturbingly similar to that of Gary McKinnon, an Asperger's Syndrome victim, who allegedly hacked into Pentagon computers from his home in north London. Campaigners said O'Dwyer has been abandoned by his country much as McKinnon was.
Since 2004, 29 UK nationals or dual nationals have been extradited from the UK to the U.S., with only five Americans going the other way.
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