TVShack's Richard O'Dwyer "sold down the river" as extradition to USA cleared

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order

picture of Richard ODwyer from TVShack.netThe British Home Secretary, Theresa May, has approved the extradition to the United States of the 23-year-old student who created the TVShack website.

Richard O'Dwyer and his supporters were hoping that the UK government would intervene after a court ruled in January that Mr O'Dwyer could be extradited on charges of copyright infringement.

The TVShack website provided links to movies and television series, including content that breached copyright. According to media reports, the website earned the Sheffield Hallam University computing student more than $230,000 (£147,000) in advertising revenue before US authorities seized the domain in mid 2010.

Richard O'Dwyer's mother accused the government of selling her son "down the river" by approving the extradition:

"Today, yet another British citizen is being sold down the river by the British government.. Richard's life - his studies, work opportunities, financial security - is being disrupted, for who knows how long, because the UK Government has not introduced the much needed changes to the extradition law."

O'Dwyer could face up to a decade in a US jail if he is convicted of the allegations.

A survey of over 1400 people conducted on Sophos's Naked Security website earlier this year revealed that the vast majority of those polled believed Richard O'Dwyer should not be extradited.

There are obviously some parallels which can be made with the plight of Gary McKinnon, the British hacker who has been fighting extradition to the United States for over ten years.

Both McKinnon's and O'Dwyer's cases have highlighted concerns that the UK-US extradition treaty is unfairly biased against British citizens, an accusation that has been refuted by the US authorities.

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44 Responses to TVShack's Richard O'Dwyer "sold down the river" as extradition to USA cleared

  1. Rick B. · 1236 days ago

    He appears to be a thief. Why shouldn't he face trial?

    • Myles · 1236 days ago

      Rick - He should face trial in the UK, not be sent to a foreign country for trial. Why is he being sent to the US when there are laws in the UK to deal with this?

    • Richard · 1236 days ago

      Someone who tells other people how to steal something isn't necessarily a thief themselves.

      And even if you consider the act of linking to infringing material to be theft, why shouldn't he face trial *in the UK*?

      Oh, wait - it's because what he did *isn't a crime* in the UK.

    • IMHO, posting links != thievery

      Is a journalist that compiles and publishes a police blotter a criminal because s/he received compensation for writing about crime?

      If said journalist resides in the UK (or any other non-US country) and reports on US crime and the US decides to file charges against that individual, should they be extradited to the US or tried locally?

      The copyright industry has run amuck.

    • asdf · 1236 days ago

      The question was why should he be extradited to the US...

    • Pete · 1236 days ago

      If he violated British law he should be tried in Britain. This is the tip of a slippery slope. If an American citizen violates some bizarre law in Burkina Faso, which is analogous to an American law, should that citizen be extradited to face trial there?

    • Joe · 1236 days ago

      Dude did you mean to comment on some other article and you ended up here by accident?
      This guy posted links to 'infringing content' He did not steal anything from anyone. Links.
      Even if he had all the 'infringing content' on his own servers it wouldn't be theft.
      'Copyright infringement' is not theft, not in any way, shape or form. They are two completely different things.

      PS. It just occurred to me that you were being sarcastic. I guess I'm easily trolled.

    • John · 1236 days ago

      Because he hasn't actually committed a crime according to the law in this country. (That's why he is not being tried here).

    • John · 1236 days ago

      Also I should just add that Richard O'Dwyer has not been accused (by anyone) of hosting or distributing copyrighted material, only providing links on his website, ie telling people where free content may be found. This is an offence in the US, not in the UK. This copyright agenda is pursued very aggressively by two very powerful big business organisations in the US - the RIAA (the Recording Industry Association of America) and the MPAA (the Motion Picture Association of America) which is why infringement is such a big issue over there. Recently the head of the MPAA was accused of trying to bribe Barack Obama - threatening to withdraw financial support for his forthcoming election campaign if the recent proposed new internet laws SOPA and PIPA were not passed. This is the way things get done in America they have a different form of democracy over there.

  2. IDM · 1236 days ago

    Because the extradition treaty between the UK and the US is deeply flawed. It would be near impossible to get a US citizen to the UK in similar circumstances...

  3. John · 1236 days ago

    What did he steal, Rick?

  4. Chris · 1236 days ago

    If he has broken the law in the uk then being charged here would be no surprise. He should not be sent to America for it. Even if it enabled Americans to break the law. I drank a small amount of alcohol last week. Should i be sent to a country where there is a strict ban on alcohol because of this?

  5. James · 1236 days ago

    I really miss TV shack. It was epic.

  6. Tonie · 1236 days ago

    I agree that the US/UK extradition rules are balanced in the US's favour, and it is unfair. He has, however, broken US law, and should be tried in a US court of law. If someone breaks UK law either from another country, or they then flee to another country, should we not have the right to extradite and try them in our courts under our laws? People can't break foreign laws and then expect our government to protect them by NOT extraditing them.

  7. Ashamed · 1236 days ago

    British govt can't extradite a terrorist based on "Human rights" ground but more than happy to send a kid who had a website which gave links to people to watch movies.

    Wow just wow this country amaze me !

    • Fionacat · 1234 days ago

      In fairness, Abu Qatada would probably face an unfair trial in Jordan despite what assurances we can get from the government, whilst it sucks Richard should recieve an at least unbiased trial.

    • Potsdam · 1225 days ago

      I'm afraid the British government are not and probably never were concerned with equitable international law - like Blunkett who negotiated this treaty the motivation is odiously to accede to the Yanks. It is interesting that there are still IRA terrorists in the States whom America refuses to release - if these are Britain's allies give me our enemies.

  8. Tom · 1236 days ago

    If you break the law you should do the time. What if a US citizen stole thousands of DVD's from a store in Britain and made it back to the US before he could be apprehended? Should he be sent to Britain to face his crimes?

    • Henry Johnson · 1236 days ago

      The scenario you propose is not at all equivalent to this case.

    • Dan · 1236 days ago

      Theft is illegal in Britain. This guy hasn't broken any laws.

  9. Sean · 1236 days ago

    Rick, whether or not he should face trial is not the question. What's important here is that the British Government is extraditing a British citizen to the United States for a crime that doesn't materially involve the US, and a pretty sodding trivial crime at that. He linked to copyright protected content elsewhere - is this something anyone has in mind when considering treaties that allow a life to be turned completely upside down for "reasonable suspicion"?

    If linking to content is indeed a crime in the UK, then he should go before a British court. If linking is not a crime in the UK, then why are we extraditing for something done in the UK that is not even against the law?

    Blair introduced this treaty, during his drive to give the United States government anything it wanted, in the hope that after buying enough presents, Bush would reward Tony with the occasional bit of pitty sex. The Conservatives and Lib Dems have mysteriously dropped their opposition to this treaty now they find themselves in office. With Cameron visiting Obama, the entire UK is waiting in fear - not knowing what the hell Cameron's going to offer Obama?

  10. Stephanie K · 1236 days ago

    He committed a crime and now has to pay for it? Oh poor baby.

    • Richard · 1235 days ago

      What he did was not a crime in the UK.

    • Dave_R · 1235 days ago

      Do you drive a car? In which case, I will offer the same "poor baby" response when you are extradited to Saudi Arabia to face the entirely justified punishment for your heinous crime.

  11. Bitmap · 1236 days ago

    He isn't a US citizen, is the prison industrial complex so hard up for cash that it needs to start importing people and spending how many thousands of dollars of tax money to incarcerate, when the UK could have just as easily punished its own.

  12. Shiny317 · 1236 days ago

    If he only provided the links, then he's only really pointed out where the movies and TV shows were and not actually provided them. If I pointed out at a car boot sale a man was selling copied DVD's to someone, it doesn't mean I have done wrong, and it certainly doesn't mean the person I pointed it out to has to buy a pirate DVD. No-one had to follow the links or download the content. The article just says he provided the links on his site, not that he hosted or distributed the content.

  13. Colin Wilson · 1236 days ago

    Lets look at this from another angle;

    (1) Someone in the UK posts links to sites with copyright material, but never holds the files himself - he's extradited to the US where they say some vague "infringement" crime was committed

    (2) A US marine murders 16 people in Afghanistan - the crime is clearly committed in Afghanistan, but the murderer is NOT being handed over to face trial locally - where the crime was committed.

    Which is the more serious crime, and who will get the most lenient sentence ?

    • Bill in Indiana · 1235 days ago

      Seeing as how the Marine may likely be facing a death sentence should he be found guilty, I'd say that being busted for accessory to theft is not all that bad.

  14. Melb. · 1236 days ago

    "He appears to be a thief."

    The story says "The TVShack website provided links to movies and television series"
    So he appears not to be a thief, maybe assisted other thieves.

    "Why shouldn't he face trial?"

    But no qualms with that. It's actually about whether he should be extradited to another jurisdiction for an alleged offenses committed not actually committed inside that jurisdiction.

    Considering no lives were put at risk and it's not a national security matter. You would question why he's not be charged in the UK.

  15. Dan · 1236 days ago

    "The TVShack website provided links to movies and television series, including content that breached copyright."

    Hmm...sounds a lot like Google and Yahoo and every other search engine. Why aren't they being thrown into court?

  16. wpw · 1236 days ago

    One rather suspects if it had been Sophos intellectual property stolen, the editorial attitude would be a bit different.

  17. Dave2009 · 1236 days ago

    Our president needs to keep the contributions coming from Hollywood and that's why your citizen is being handed over. Apparently your leaders are obliged, via the laws on your books, to help our president keep his job for another four years.

    The young man is about to be eviscerated in the public square to the raucous cheers of the entertainment industry.

    Somebody call Mel Gibson, maybe he can spin off a modern day version of Brave Heart.

    • Dan · 1235 days ago

      Our President most definitely does not need to keep contributions coming in from Hollywood. He made this pretty clear when he said that the way SOPA and PIPA could infringe upon rights meant they should not be passed in their existing forms. All he needs is for the lies from the opposition to stop.

  18. kabigabor · 1235 days ago

    Something is being overlooked here. He was only presented the link, exactly just like Google. Piracy, although media likes to say is theft, consider this:

    Theft: If someone is steal your bike from front of your house during the night and when you're walk out in the morning is Not there.

    Piracy: I saw your bike at the front of your house. I make an exact copy, your bike still there, and I have one too. See the difference?! (by the way, don't tell me none of you were copied a VHS or cassette tape in the 80's for personal use) That doesn't mean I support piracy.

    But don't let myself being ripped off either.

    Another fine example how this country protects its citizens. :(

    • Randy · 1235 days ago

      You cannot compare a bicycle to intellectual rights. If you want to use a bicycle as an example then you have to make the bike a prototype. Somebody steals the bike's designs and makes cheap knock-offs of them in China. You spent a lot of money hiring engineers for designing, getting manufacturing permits, hiring skilled tradesmen to build the prototype and even more money advertising and promoting the bike. Now you are saddled with all the development costs while some intellectual property thief (or copyright infringer) undercuts you and make all the profits.

    • Sharp · 1235 days ago

      I don't consider your Process as Piracy.
      I can see anything on TV and then create a matching product for my own use. This is a freedom of invention and creation, and should not be considered Piracy. Selling/redistribution would actually be the crime, not making something to mimic another invention because it costed $20 to make, and $100 to buy. It's not like you didn't buy the materials and used your own time to build it yourself.

      I could actually take the MSN site and post up a site to stream their videos to mine. It is not piracy as it's already on their site, but still banking off the ads.
      I might as well start writting thousands of patents on normal everyday things and then sue companies when they create a product that looks, and replicates what my product does.

      Oh the ignorance of Polictics, and the USA government.

  19. Randy · 1235 days ago

    Copyright infringement is a crime. If the victims are located in the US and the perpetrator is located in the UK then extradition is justified. That goes for Russian identity thieves as well but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting. Putin is in charge and he hates the US and is probably encouraging the Russian hackers.

    • Richard · 1235 days ago

      Linking to infringing materials is *not* a crime in the UK (yet).

  20. Sharp · 1235 days ago

    I think this is getting out of hand. As long as the internet exists this will be going on, and there is no stopping it. If they attempt to ban the internet, a Black Market Internet network will arrise with no control. I suggest you blame the inventor of networking and Internet. Then secondly look to the companies and tell them they need to spend more time working on protection of their media than to sit there and cry, because it's broadcasted on Cable to millions anyways. People need to realize that cable is free, and should not be under a piracy act, when its broadcasted out to the world. Since existance people have been recording shows on Beta, VHS, DVD; and if not mistaken is piracy.

    It's like saying the cable company came in and set up cable on a single TV. I then split it to 3 other TVs. Is that considered piracy? I see this as no different if I would to split it with a PC to broadcast this out onto a streamming site, because my other rooms do not have TVs, or Cable lines. The only difference is it streams while playing, and not actually recorded, but you might as well record it to a VHS and then watch it in another room.

  21. Frank · 1235 days ago

    A recent survey showed that 154% of people believed that Internet surveys where not trustworthy.

  22. dpete · 1234 days ago

    @kabigabor actually more like this....

    Something is being overlooked here. He only presented the link, exactly just like Google. Consider this:

    Theft: You keep your DVD collection on your front porch. If someone is steal your DVD from front of your house during the night and when you're walk out in the morning is Not there.

    Piracy: Some finds out you keep DVDs on porch at the front of your house. They make an exact copy, your DVDs still there. See the difference?! (by the way, don't tell me none of you were copied a VHS or cassette tape in the 80's for personal use) That doesn't mean I support piracy.

    TVShack: Told users of its website where the DVDs on the front porches were located.

    Let's not shoot the messenger...

  23. Sizzle · 1233 days ago

    Let's face it. Theresa May obviously had no idea what she was signing off. Do you think the ol' dear could comprehend exactly what he did? The internet is probably far too left wing for her Tory mind to comprehend. Surprised she didn't release the beagles and chase him down herself while riding a white horse, trampling down homeless people in her path.

    Hey, it's only the life of one of our citizens you've sent to the yankie dogs. He probably got boxed up and stuck in the hold on Dave Cameron's private plane to Washington!


    P.S. I really hope this gets posted. This is my favourite post so far.

  24. TheBox and UkNova must have some ties to Parliament.. haha.. I mean seriously whats the point people.. You should be happy the demand is so high for British programming.. Maybe if you were smart you would just start streaming all your crap via subscription for the states so I wouldn't have to steal it all.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog at, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley