Court approves US extradition of British ‘pirate’

A British student faces extradition to the US on piracy charges after a controversial court decision.

Richard O’Dwyer, 23, was running a website which offered links to sites where movies and TV shows could be illegally downloaded. The website,, didn’t store pirated material itself.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency claims he made more than $230,000 in advertising revenues. He faces up to ten years in jail in the UK on the copyright infringement charges.

But O’Dwyer’s lawyers argued that by providing links to infringing sites he was acting no more illegally than Google – or, indeed, many other websites.

Under British law, in order for extradition to go ahead, it’s necessary for the prosecution to demonstrate that the alleged activity is an offence in both the UK and the country to which extradition is sought.

It’s the first part of this that has caused most of the controversy. In previous similar cases, it’s been ruled that merely providing links didn’t amount to piracy.

However, district judge Quentin Purdy said he was satisfied that the alleged conduct would indeed constitute an offence under British law. And this means that he can be extradited under the 2003 Extradition Act 2003, signed by George Bush and Tony Blair – and touted as a way of meaking it easier to extradite terrorists.

But many are incensed that the UK is required to provide a much higher burden of proof to win an extradition from the US than the other way round.

O’Dwyer’s mother has accused the British courts of throwing her son to the wolves.

“The Blair government signed this Extradition Act with America to target dangerous criminals, but this legislation is now being used to target people like my son who pose no threat to anyone at all,” she told the Daily Mail.

The case is being compared to that of alleged hacker Gary McKinnon, accused of breaking into US government websites because of an obsession with UFOs.

O’Dwyer can now appeal to home secretary Theresa May, who must give formal approval for the extradition.