U.K. student strikes deal to avoid extradition in copyright case

Richard O'Dwyer of TV-Shack fame will not be extradited to the United States to face copyright infringement charges, and will pay compensation instead.

British student Richard O'Dwyer, who was facing trial in the U.S. on charges of copyright infringement, has signed a deal to avoid extradition.

British student Richard O'Dwyer. Change.org

The U.K. High Court was told today that O'Dwyer had signed a "deferred prosecution" agreement that would see him required to pay compensation instead of being extradited, the BBC has reported.

The agreement states that O'Dwyer will pay compensation and promise not to breach copyright laws again. Should he do so, he will be liable for prosecution.

He will voluntarily travel to the United States in December to ratify the agreement, according to the BBC.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who supported O'Dwyer during the extradition process, told CNET: "I am pleased to see this. I think it is time for the U.K. to engage in a serious re-examination of their extradition treaty with the U.S."

The charges against 24-year-old O'Dwyer were brought by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in relation to his Web site, TV-Shack, which provided links to pirated TV programs and movies hosted elsewhere on the Web.

U.K. judge John Thomas said the move was a "very satisfactory outcome" to the three-year legal battle launched after the TV-Shack domain was seized in 2010. The site generated more than $230,000 in advertising revenue during its lifetime, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

O'Dwyer's extradition was initially approved by a U.K. magistrate in January, pending an approval from the U.K. Home Secretary, Theresa May. May approved the extradition order in March of this year.

O'Dwyer's lawyer, Ben Cooper, argued at the time that as TV-Shack did not host any copyrighted materials, and instead linked to content hosted elsewhere on the Web, it was "no different to Google" in how it operated.

He could have faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted by a U.S. court.

But critics of O'Dwyer, notably U.S. copyright lobbying groups, said that O'Dwyer was knowingly providing access to copyright-infringing content.

A leaked memo from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) earlier this year characterized TV-Shack as a pirate Web site that made a profit by providing aggregated links to copyrighted material.

"Richard O'Dwyer created TVShack.net, offering thousands of stolen movies and other pirated content to viewers in violation of both U.S. and U.K. law. In fact, O'Dwyer actively advertised the amount of money users would save by illegally streaming content via TV-Shack rather than by acquiring it legitimately."

"At the same time, he profited handsomely from advertising on the site he profited heavily from this activity... To call him a 'middleman' suggests a lack of involvement in the illegal activity, which is simply not the case," the memo said.

Updated at 7:00 a.m. ET on November 29: with statement from Jimmy Wales.

 

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