At first blush, this story may not appear terribly relevant to national security blogs, democracy or human rights, but here me out. It concerns a 24 year-old British citizen whose website has acted as a go-between for other sites which allegedly infringe music and movie copyrights of U.S. entertainment companies. Richard O’Dwyer ran the site, TVShack.net, which linked to others accused of online piracy.
Instead of going after the pirate sites (or in addition to it), the Justice Department decided that because O’Dwyer earned money from his site ($230,000 over two years), that he too was guilty of copyright infringement.
I find this the most bizarre interpretation of copyright law imaginable. It would be one thing if O’Dwyer had acted as a middle-man for a serious crime, but to link to another website that allegedly violates U.S. copyright law? How is that aiding and abetting? Not to mention extraditing a UK citizen to the U.S. to prosecute him for this? For linking? Where do they plan to put him when they get him: Guantanamo?
Here’s where this case gets really sticky: if they want to go after someone for linking to sites engaged in illegality, why not go even farther? Why not prosecute U.S. bloggers for linking to jihadi websites, even academics or specialists who study Islamists professionally? Don’t think this is far-fetched either. An Israeli lawyer publicly suggested that Israeli bloggers linking to this website when I break a gag order or expose an Israeli security secret are themselves guilty of violating Israeli law. I think the guy is a dunderheaded ass. But there are now plenty such people in the Israeli Knesset and security agencies. They’d be more than happy to introduce such legislation if it burnished their ultranationalist credentials…………..
- Richard O’Dwyer: an unfair, absurd case | Editorial (guardian.co.uk)
- Jimmy Wales: Richard O’Dwyer and the new internet war (guardian.co.uk)
- Criminalizing links: Why the Richard O’Dwyer case matters (gigaom.com)
- Obama Seeks to Criminalize Linking to Online Piracy Websites (richardsilverstein.com)
- U.S. Pursues Richard O’Dwyer as Intermediary in Online Piracy (nytimes.com)
- Jimmy Wales call to stop extradition of Richard O’Dwyer to the US. (change.org)
- Wikipedia Founder Speaks Up Against the Extradition of Richard O’Dwyer to the USA (salem-news.com)
- Richard O’Dwyer’s extradition looms over copyright infringement claims – video interview (guardian.co.uk)
- This Is All Kinds Of Wrong of the Day (thedailywh.at)
- Jimmy Wales to UK Home Secretary: don’t render Richard O’Dwyer to the USA (boingboing.net)