U.K. authorities have agreed to extradite a 23-year-old student to the U.S. on copyright infringement charges, officials announced yesterday.
The student in question, Richard O’Dwyer, is responsible for running the site TVShack, which collects links to other sites that illegally host streams of television and movie video content. The site’s .net domain was first seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in October 2010, prompting O’Dwyer to switch to a .cc domain that was set up with a registrar outside of the U.S. — thus not subject to seizure. O’Dwyer then took the site offline back in May after learning that U.K. authorities had dropped their investigation due to the extradition request.
Essentially, TVShack is just a place where people can search for a variety of television shows organized by title, season, and episode. Each episode contains links to sites where you can watch the show illegally — usually without commercial interruption. Clicking the link brings you to one of several different video hosting sites — such as Vidbux.com, Movshare.com, and the recently shutdown Megaupload— where you actually watch the illegal stream of content.
The interesting thing about this situation is that there isn’t a prior legal precedent for charging someone with copyright violations when all they’ve done is point to other perpetrators. The U.K. courts, however, found that TVShack could be considered a “nexus” for illegal activity, which is why it approved O’Dwyer’s extradition. Given the fierceness of organizations in the U.S. to claim there is a violation of the basic freedom of speech, I’d expect that copyright holders will ultimately end up losing this case.
The thing I really don’t understand is why U.S. authorities would want to go after a guy who’s basically doing half of the work for them. You’d think the government would be happy that someone was collecting a nice tidy list of places that were violating copyrights by illegally streaming content, which they could then pursue. A strange analogy would be something like Batman deciding to bust a student who posts all the available banks in the city with weak security because it would help heard the criminals into a predictable location — while ignoring the bank robbers’ role entirely.
Via ArsTechnica; Image via Warner Brothers