Opinion: Stop the extradition of Richard O’Dwyer

Recently Sheffield Hallam student Richard O’Dwyer lost his court case against extradition to the USA for running a website that provided links to websites where users could illegally pirate copyrighted TV material. He will be lodging an appeal with the High Court and he cannot be extradited without the specific permission of the Home Secretary Theresa May.

Richard’s actions were not a crime in the UK because his website did not host the files but rather hosted links to the websites that did host the files, like Google does. Quite simply, it goes against the terms of the Extradition Treaty if his actions were not a crime in both countries. If extradited, Richard could face 10 years in a federal US prison.

This situation is a clear abuse of the extradition treaty established between the US and the UK and represents an obvious breakdown in justice.

While the appeal and decision of the Home Secretary are ongoing, Sheffield Hallam University Liberal Democrats will campaign for Richard O’Dwyer not to be extradited. The campaign will target Nick Clegg, who is Sheffield Hallam’s MP, for his Cabinet muscle and his previous opposition to the extradition of Gary McKinnon, and Home Secretary Theresa May whose signature is required before Richard can be extradited.

Richard’s mother Julia O’Dwyer had the following to say:

“In order to help prevent the extraditions of Richard O’Dwyer who was last week rubber stamped for extradition to the US as well as those other UK citizens have been accused of ‘crimes’ committed on UK soil never having set foot in the US, the UK government needs to act swiftly to introduce the “Forum Amendment” which is already written and ready to be enacted. If this were agreed by both sides of the House of Commons, it would be up and running within one month. The Forum Amendment was recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in 2011 as part of the Government’s extradition review as well as being debated and the motion carried as a matter of urgency, in Dominic Raab’s debate in Nov 2011. It is endorsed by Liberty, the Human Rights Organisation and many other British campaigners including 100 Lawyers & Barristers who signed a letter to that effect. Pressure needs to be brought upon the Prime Minister & Deputy Prime Minister to keep their pre election promises to the country and make the necessary adjustments. Please send E mails to PM & DPM and to the Home Office please as letters take too long.

The fact that  two British citizens were rubber stamped for extradition on the same day is an extreme cause for concern which some could argue warrants an emergency debate in Parliament.

Richard O’Dwyer is under threat of extradition for conduct which the whole IP Legal community are aware is not a crime in the UK and yet is not afforded a hearing by a technically educated Judge in order to dismiss the dual criminality requirement for extradition”

Please like our non-partisan Facebook page and there is an e-petition here. Let’s try and reach the 4000 signature milestone today.

If you want send e-mails, Nick Clegg can be contacted at [email protected] and Theresa May at  [email protected]

You may also want to contact your local MP about the specific issue of the Forum Amendment.

If you are sending an email, ask for a substantive response rather than a generic paragraph about the state of the extradition system.

Please act to try to stop the unfair extradition of Richard O’Dwyer.

* Rich Clare is president of Sheffield Hallam University Lib Dems and writes on the blog 'A brief history of liberty'. He is standing for England Convenor in the Liberal Youth elections.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Such double standardsare against the concept of “Justice for all”. However, they are, in such circumstances, to be expected.
    After all, were double standards a bar to political office, the HoP would be sparsely populated indeed.

  • What form were these links? To my mind they could take two different forms each with a different level of complicity in copyright theft. A link to a website where you can then download a file is different to a download link which allows you to download a file from another website without leaving the one you’re on.

    If you’re providing download links, then you’re essentially providing the website where these files are downloaded from, it’s just that the files don’t reside on your sever. To my mind this is against the spirit if not the letter of the law. Anyone who clicks on that link is automatically going to start downloading that file.

    If you’re only providing links to websites then you are comparable to Google and the Yellow Pages, someone clicking the link isn’t necessarily going to download the file. There’s room for doubt; room for some other service to be the purpose of your website.

  • An excellent post raising an issue that causes problems on an ongoing basis. If a crime has been committed it should be tried in the UK. The McKinnon case has been dragging on for a long time

  • Stuart Mitchell 21st Jan '12 - 3:24pm

    “Richard’s actions were not a crime in the UK… Quite simply, it goes against the terms of the Extradition Treaty if his actions were not a crime in both countries.”

    That’s your opinion but the judge in this case came to a very different conclusion after full consideration of the facts. He said :-

    “I am satisfied the conduct alleged in the instant request meets the dual criminality test and would be an offence in this jurisdiction.”

    Though O’Dwyer’s supporters are inevitably trying to portray him as a hapless student who posted a few “links”, the full court judgement (http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/us-v-odwyer-ruling.pdf) paints a very different picture of a man who admitted to earning advertising revenue of £15,000 per month from what was very obviously copyright abuse on a huge scale. The “business” was so lucrative that when the US authorities shut down the original site in June 2010, O’Dwyer set up a new domain name within 24 hours so he could continue raking in money from content that other people had paid to produce.

    Quite frankly I think O’Dwyer’s supporters would be better putting their time and effort to better use helping people who actually deserve it.

    As for O’Dwyer, seeing as we all believe in community justice around here, perhaps the best punishment for him might be to spend a few months working as a teaboy in some of the more hard pressed sectors of our entertainment industry. If he actually saw first hand the huge amount of hard work people put in to producing things like films and music, at huge financial risk, then he might not be quite so blase about helping others to pilfer copyright material for free.

  • “And then they looked from the government to the corporation, from the corporations back to the government, and they were unable to tell the difference” – animal farm

  • “I can’t comment with authority, Charles, but I think the links were to other websites where users could stream live TV, etc. I think the reason the judge ruled against Richard recently, was that the links were actively posted on his website rather than automatically displayed like Google.”
    Actively posted by the members of the website and not actively policed, although link removal and member banning did occur for any links complained about. If the U.S. Government wants to us to use their laws in this state, then fine. Isn’t how the site was run enough to get Safe Harbor Provisions under the DMCA?

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