Brit Extradited Over TV Linking Website

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 15, 2012 10:05 AM

On Tuesday, U.K. officials agreed to extradite Richard O'Dwyer to the U.S. to face criminal copyright charges. The 23-year-old British college student ran TVShack, a linking website that directed users to pirated content hosted on third-party sites.

Brits -- and many U.S. techno-activists -- are outraged at the decision, as O'Dwyer's site was operated and hosted in Europe. They want an explanation for why the U.K. Home Secretary has approved the extradition.

Her decision was based on international extradition law.

International extradition law almost always involves treaties between different countries. In this case, the Home Secretary's decision was made pursuant to her country's Extradition Act of 2003, which implements the 2003 U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty.

The treaty defines the terms under which individuals will be extradited between the two countries. Both countries must provide evidence that the individual has committed a crime. The U.S. must meet the standard of "reasonable suspicion," whereas the U.K. must prove "probable cause." There is "no practical difference" between these standards, according to a bilateral legal panel.

The extradition treaty also involves parity -- individuals can only be extradited if the offense is a crime in both countries and carries a prison sentence of at least one year. However, the U.K. can refuse to extradite an individual who faces the death penalty unless American prosecutors assure that the punishment will not be imposed.

U.S. officials met all requirements set down by the treaty, according to a statement made on behalf of the Home Secretary. The U.K. would be in breach of international extradition law if it refused to extradite Richard O'Dwyer to the U.S.

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