Wikipedia Founder Petitions Against Extradition Of ‘Next Big Thing’
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com
Despite having no charges placed against him in his home country, Richard O’Dwyer, the Sheffield student responsible for the now defunct TVShack.net website, is facing extradition to US to be charged for copyright infringement.
Now, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, is throwing his support behind O’Dwyer as he’s added his support to a petition to keep the student in the UK. At the time of this writing, the petition has almost 22,500 signatures of the required 25,000.
“Richard O’Dwyer is a 24 year old British student at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK. He is facing extradition to the USA and up to ten years in prison, for creating a website – TVShack.net – which linked (similar to a search-engine) to places to watch TV and movies online,” writes Mr. Wales in the petition.
“O’Dwyer is not a US citizen, he’s lived in the UK all his life, his site was not hosted there, and most of his users were not from the US. America is trying to prosecute a UK citizen for an alleged crime which took place on UK soil.”
According to an interview with the Guardian, O’Dwyer first set up the site when he was 19 at the suggestion of a friend. In 2010, London police and two members from the US Immigration and Customs Executive (ICE) arrested him and took him to a local police station for questioning. He later posted a 6-month bail and shut down the site that day. In May 2011, O’Dwyer reported to a London police station and was told there would be no case pursued against him in the UK. There wasn’t any time for relief, however. As Mr. O’Dwyer’s mother tells the story, “Then – I’m not kidding – the next sentence is ‘oh, we’ve got an extradition warrant for you from America instead, so you must go immediately to the court’, and then the handcuffs were on, he was taken away.”
The UK’s Home Secretary Theresa May approved the extradition in January. Now, Mr. Wales is petitioning her office to stop the extradition process.
“Copyright is an important institution, serving a beneficial moral and economic purpose. But that does not mean that copyright can or should be unlimited,” writes Wales in his petition.
“Richard O’Dwyer is the human face of the battle between the content industry and the interests of the general public.”
When asked why he had decided to support O’Dwyer, Mr. Wales told the Telegraph, “When I met Richard, he struck me as a clean-cut, geeky kid. Still a university student, he is precisely the kind of person we can imagine launching the next big thing on the internet.”
Julia O’Dwyer, Mr. O’Dwyer’s mother, has been pushing against the extradition. According to the Guardian interview, Ms. O’Dwyer even took 6 months off work to learn and understand the paperwork and legalese involved in this process. She is also responsible for setting up the petition at gopetition.com. She says Mr. Wales isn’t flippantly showing his support.
“It is obviously quite significant to have Jimmy Wales’s support. He didn’t do that lightly. He spent a lot of time talking to Richard,” Ms. O’Dwyer told BBC News.
While this process continues, O’Dwyer continues his studies at Sheffield Hallam University and looks forward to a future career in web development.
“I like doing web development, and hope to keep making various websites. It’d be good to join a big web company I think, just for the experience,” said O’Dwyer.