In 2011, Richard O’Dwyer was arrested by police for operating TVShack, a website that listed user-submitted links to TV-shows hosted on other websites.
Earlier this year UK Home Secretary Theresa May officially approved an extradition request from US authorities and ever since Richard and his mother Julia have battled against it. Their campaign has received high-profile support from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who characterized the case as a clash between civil liberties and the interests of the copyright industries.
Right now Richard is awaiting his appeal to the High Court against the decision of a judge in a lower court to allow his extradition to go ahead. That appeal is scheduled for December 4 at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
Speaking with TorrentFreak, Julia O’Dwyer says the appeal will take place on a number of issues but mainly against the lower court judge’s decision.
“In order to proceed with an extradition the alleged conduct must be a crime punishable with more than 12 months in prison in both countries. Despite the Judge saying at the Oct/Nov hearings last year that we had a good strong legal argument supporting this (an opinion which was agreed by the prosecution Barrister), when considering his decision he strangely changed his mind and decided the other way,” Julia explains.
Since it was very similar in function, on many occasions Richard’s site TVShack has been compared to the now-defunct site TV-Links. The admins of TV-Links were also subjected to legal action but were cleared after a judge ruled that Section 17 of the European Commerce Directive 2000 afforded TV-Links a defense when it linked to other web sites. This ruling will form part of Richard’s appeal.
“We will be strengthening these arguments at appeal and as you might expect have sought expert IP opinion on the matter,” Julie adds.
Last week, UK Home Secretary Theresa May decided that alleged hacker Gary McKinnon would not be extradited to the US. She also announced that the government will make some changes to the existing extradition treaty, including the so-called Forum Amendment, which many viewed as good news for Richard’s case, but that’s not necessarily the case.
“This means that where an accused has committed all or a significant amount of the alleged conduct in the UK, then the courts will be able to decide whether they should be tried in the UK,” Julia explains.
“This is a major breakthrough and is what the campaigners for extradition reform have been fighting for for years. This would apply in Richard’s case but as the law has not yet been changed and I don’t know when it will, this is not likely to benefit Richard.”
While Julia notes that the UK government does technically have the power to apply the changes to Richard’s case, the McKinnon decision may mean that they choose not to.
“[The UK government] has just upset the US by keeping Gary Mckinnon here and they are already trying to sabotage any law changes planned by sending over a US Judge to give a lecture to the UK Parliament later this month,” she reveals.
Furthermore, while not a single US citizen has ever been extradited to the UK for a crime committed from the US, aside from the McKinnon decision Julia says that nearly all extraditions to the US of UK citizens (including those who have never set foot on US soil) have eventually gone ahead.
Faced with this bleak outlook, Julia informs TorrentFreak that she is “almost certain” that Richard will be extradited to the US. To this end she is now being forced to prepare for this worst-case scenario.
Fortunately, several people have already offered to finance or work for free on Richard’s case in the US but there are additional costs still to be met.
“There still remains the worry of financial costs in the US. There will be personal financial costs associated with travel to the US, accommodation and the cost of securing an address for Richard to live at in order to be allowed bail. These costs will have to be covered by me somehow,” Julia explains.
“What concerns me are the unknown additional costs which we could be faced with such as a large bail bond or an even more costly financial penalty running into hundreds of thousands of dollars if Richard were to be found guilty,” she adds.
To prepare for this eventuality, a supporter has set up a fighting fund for Richard on GoFundMe with an initial target of £25,000.
“This is a large amount to be raised and I know times are hard for many of us so with that in mind please donate only if you can afford to do so. Your online and public support has been invaluable and has helped get us through this dreadful situation,” Julia concludes.
The petition set up by Jimmy Wales attracted hundreds of thousands of signatures – the hope is that just a few percent of those people will donate one or two pounds, euros, or dollars each.