U.K. Home Office won't block O'Dwyer extradition in copyright case

The British government department has said that the Home Secretary, who has the power to block extraditions, will not intervene in the matter of the U.S. request for Richard O'Dwyer.

The U.K. Home Office has confirmed that Home Secretary Theresa May will not block the extradition of British student Richard O'Dwyer to the U.S., despite calls for her to intervene.

British student Richard O'Dwyer. Change.org

The 24-year-old is to be extradited to the United States to face copyright infringement charges related to a Web site he founded.

The site, which U.S. prosecutors claim generated up to $230,000 in advertising revenue, did not at any point host copyrighted material. Instead, it linked to other sites that hosted television shows and movies -- including content uploaded to YouTube.

While the U.K. Home Secretary is able to veto a court's decision and could theoretically halt O'Dwyer's extradition proceedings, May has decided not to intervene in this instance. A Home Office spokesperson told CNET:

"Richard O'Dwyer is wanted in the U.S. for offences related to copyright infringement. The U.K. courts found there were no statutory bars to his surrender under the Extradition Act 2003 and on 9 March the Home Secretary, having carefully considered all relevant matters, signed an order for his extradition to the U.S."

"Mr. O'Dwyer has appealed against the decision of the District Judge, and an appeal hearing will be held in due course."

In response to the public backlash over the 24-year-old's case, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales set up a Change.org petition appealing for May to put a halt to the extradition.

Wales met O'Dwyer last month, describing him in The Guardian as a "clean-cut, geeky kid" and the sort of person who could end up "launching the next big thing on the Internet."

At one point, the number of signatures on the petition was rising by 200 a minute. As of today, more than 211,000 people have signed it, including O'Dwyer's mother, Julia.

As a U.S. citizen, Wales is unable to use the U.K. government's official e-petition service. If an e-petition reaches more than 100,000 U.K. signatories and has a supporting member of Parliament, the House of Commons may debate the matter in Parliament, so long as all other avenues of bringing the matter to the government's attention have been exhausted.

According to Wales, the site that O'Dwyer operated, TV-Shack, is "no different to Google." The site was seized by U.S. authorities in 2010 -- once in July and a second time in November -- following O'Dwyer's bid to circumvent the block by changing the site's domain name.

Speaking on the phone to CNET, Wales said: "I am very confident Theresa May will reverse the decision on the extradition. There has been no response yet to the petition, and I look forward to it."

Update at 07:00 a.m. with comment from Jimmy Wales.

 

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