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Federal prosecutors have secured the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer, a British college student accused of criminal copyright infringement. The 23-year-old ran TVShack, a linking site that directed users to copyrighted TV shows and movies found elsewhere on the web.
The decision to go after the British citizen has been called both strange and rare. TV Shack was operated and hosted abroad, and the only apparent connection to the U.S. was the material it linked to.
TVShack and O'Dwyer first gained attention in 2010. In June of that year, the U.S. seized the site's .net domain. O'Dwyer moved the site to a .cc domain, over which the U.S. had no authority, explains Ars Technica. Soon after, U.S. and U.K. investigators seized the student's computers. U.S. authorities eventually charged him with conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and copyright infringement itself.
Though the BBC reports TVShack raked in $230,000 in ad revenue, lawyers contend that the site is nothing more than a Google for pirated content. O'Dwyer only points people to content, he does not host it himself. U.S. prosecutors still say he was promoting and encouraging infringement.
A similar argument was recently used against MegaUpload. Prosecutors accused high-ranking executives of promoting and encouraging copyright infringement even though they claimed to have no control over user content. The U.S. requested their extradition as well.
Looking both at TVShack and MegaUpload, one has to wonder whether chasing international copyright pirates is a new priority at the Justice Department. And if it is, should officials really be wasting extradition requests on such low-level offenses?