Jimmy Wales to UK Home Secretary: don't render Richard O'Dwyer to the USA

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has launched a signature drive to get the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, to intervene to stop the extradition to the USA of Richard O'Dwyer, who created the TVShack website. TVShack had links to places from which users could download TV shows, and was legal under UK law. The US entertainment lobby has demanded O'Dwyer be rendered to an American court, which may persecute him for violating the law of a distant land. As Wales writes, it's time to stop letting the entertainment industry's priorities define the regulatory regime for the Internet.

Copyright is an important institution, serving a beneficial moral and economic purpose. But that does not mean it can or should be unlimited. It does not mean that we should abandon time-honoured moral and legal principles to allow endless encroachments on our civil liberties in the interests of the moguls of Hollywood.

One of the important moral principles that has made everything we relish about the internet possible, from Wikipedia to YouTube, is that internet service providers need to have a safe harbour from what their users do. There are and should be some limits to this. Under US copyright law, there are notice and take-down provisions requiring service providers to remove content under a properly formatted notification. And there is a distinction between hosting copyrighted material and telling people where it is. The latter is protected under the first amendment.

When I met Richard (along with his mother), he struck me as a clean-cut, geeky kid. Still a university student, he is precisely the kind of person one can imagine launching the next big thing on the internet. Enthusiastic, with a sharp mind and a quick wit, he reminds me of many great entrepreneurs. He tried to follow the law, and I would argue that he very likely succeeded in doing so.

Given the thin case against him, it is an outrage that he is being extradited to the US to face felony charges. No US citizen has ever been brought to the UK for alleged criminal activity on US soil. There is a disparity here that ought to raise concerns at the highest levels of government in both the US and UK.

Richard O'Dwyer and the new internet war


  1. The very idea that one’s country would be willing to ship people off for doing something that’s illegal in another country but perfectly legal where they live is sad.

    The fact that it’s not even a criminal act, merely a civil one (unless you’re Kim Dotcom, of course) just makes it worse.

    1. Canada has done it. Marc Emery legally mailed marijuana seeds from Canada to the States. The States demanded to prosecute to in the US, Canada frog marched him to the border to be prosecuted for something that was not illegal in Canada.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Emery

    2.  it would be like if an American citizen living in the USA shipped a bottle of wine or a copy of Playboy to Saudi Arabia and then the feds send you there to stand trial right?

      1. Hell, in this instance it would be more like someone from Saudi Arabia visiting the US and buying a bottle of wine, and then extraditing the shopkeeper there.

  2. I would strongly suggest using the term “extradite” instead of “render.”

    “Render” will suggest to many readers the policy of “extraordinary rendition,” and think what you will of US copyright policy or the legitimacy of this case, that is an entirely different scenario. We are not talking about duct taping a person from head to toe to a stretcher for a 12 hour flight to Libya, where they’ll be tortured for months or years.

    Extraordinary rendition still goes on in the US and the UK, and expanding the use of “rendition” to refer to any extradition that you happen to oppose will dilute the term dangerously.

    1.  Rendition is a perfectly good word when you are referring to the kind of extra-legal activities of the US government (and the rest of the world-wide wimps who cave in to these demands.)

      I’m sure you will keep on supporting it – until you are the one on the airplane with a bag over your head.

      1. There is a difference between an extradition of questionable validity and kidnapping someone off a plane to be black-boxed and tortured for a few years. It does not help the people of the latter category if the conceptual terrain becomes muddy for purely rhetorical reasons.

    2. Extraordinary rendition still goes on in the US and the UK, and expanding the use of “rendition” to refer to any extradition that you happen to oppose will dilute the term dangerously.

      “Extraordinary” rendition is called that because it’s different than regular rendition, a term already in use for this process.  So, no.

  3. All that would happen if he does get extradited is that he’s gonna lose a few months of his uni studies. they have no case against him. all this is , is a big scare tactic to stop the average joe using streaming services. if they were to go after tvshack they d have to investigate google as well since the only thing he did with his site is pointing to other online locations (just like google does).

    1. Dajaz1 was offline over a year as they refused to even tell Dajaz1’s lawyer when the hearings were or inform the court they were protesting.
      And after they finally made enough noise the DoJ pointed out that the RIAA hadn’t given the the evidence to support their claims…
      Megaupload is getting special treatment starting with willful denial that Mega is not a US corporation and can’t be served.
      They will put him in a cell and hold him until someone yells loud enough and then they might think about deporting him.

  4.  I am so ashamed of my country for even asking for this.  The world feels as though it has gone mad and there is nothing one can do to stop it.  I sign petitions and work hard, but … gdi.

    1. I feel- I hope, that this is a sign that the traditional copyright industry is running out of options. They keep escalating things, and the backlash is getting worse, yet they continue to escalate.  Either they are monumentally dense or they are going for (and rapidly approaching) broke in an effort to avoid adapting.

      I know it is infuriating to see this comment again and again every time they orchestrate some new magnificent clusterfuck, but I honestly can’t imagine this being a sustainable model. I mean, logically, you got a generation growing up for whom most of their experience with copyright was when their favorite videos on youtube were blocked or perhaps when their family was intimidated by lawyers. Both my sister and I listen exclusively to music we found in our niche online communities and my entire family is hooked with netflix. There’s less and less room for copyright tyrants to waste money being dicks, and more and more people just kickstarting crap they want.

  5. Well, since all the other comments are already serious… how could you put a face like that in jail?

  6. Slurp that MAFIAA dick, UK govt. Slurp it.

    The EU has enough sense to tell the US where to stick it.. Why don’t you sad old sods grow a pair?

    1. Yes, this was along the lines of my first thought… Sure the US is wielding evil powers… but the UK is selling out its citizens…  BOTH nations have been had.

    2. Because we want the playground bully to like us. (Perhaps ‘cos we can’t get it into our heads that the people we used to bully are actually indifferent to us now.)

  7. There’s a term for this situation: Findlandization – it refers to instances where a country makes its actions and policies compatible with a more powerful country to avoid offending the more powerful country in any way. If the UK sends one of its citizens who has broken no UK law to the US because some US companies are upset at that citizen, then I would say the process is complete. At that point the UK really has given up its sovereignty – sold it really – to the more powerful US because of fear. In other words the UK is becoming a US client state, much as my homeland Canada is in the process of doing thanks to our current PM.
    The US these days is not so much the “World Police” they want to think themselves to be, as they are the “World Bully” that uses its available military and economic power to force other countries to do whatever the fuck it wants them to do.

    1. Paasikivi, the architect of Finlandization, acceded to war crimes trials because of Finland’s involvement with the axis powers and declaration of war against the Soviet Union but insisted these were held in Finland. This suggests that he would have been far from happy shipping Finnish nationals off to the Soviet Union for trial for lesser ‘crimes’ committed on Finnish territory.

  8. Wait until Saudi Arabia starts demanding American women (all of them) to be rendered for driving. 

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