Accused U.K. TV Pirate Won't Be Extradited to the United States

TV Shack Richard O'Dwyer Outside Court - H 2012
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TV Shack Richard O'Dwyer Outside Court - H 2012

Richard O'Dwyer, the British founder of TVShack, has reached a deal with U.S. authorities to avoid extradition.

The 24-year-old student was at the center of an international drama for linking to free films and TV shows on his website. After a UK judge ordered his extradition in January, the move brought protests amid more general concern over potential copyright laws being debated in the U.S. such as the Stop Online Piracy Act. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, launched a campaign to stop O'Dwyer's extradition.

The U.S. government charged O'Dwyer with making $230,000 in advertising profits off of his website.

O'Dwyer's lawyers argued that mere linking to infringing content wasn't enough to support the copyright allegations of the U.S. government, pointing to websites like Google and Yahoo that were allegedly doing something similar.

In response to the Wales campaign, the MPAA reportedly issued "talking points" that stated in part, "O'Dwyer was not a mere 'middleman.' He knowingly set up a site with the purpose of acting as a clearinghouse for infringing content -- he advertised his site as a place to find movies that were still in theatres and in-season tv shows. He profited heavily from his activity. To call him a 'middleman' suggests a lack of involvement in the illegal activity, which is simply not the case."

The case was on appeal, and O'Dwyer was facing 10 years in prison in the U.S. if extradited.

O'Dwyer will instead pay a small fine and travel to the U.S. to formally execute a "deferred prosecution agreement," which is a deal to put off a criminal case so long as certain conditions are met.

"This is very exciting news, and I'm pleased to hear it," Wales told the Guardian. "What needs to happen next is a serious reconsideration of the UK extradition treaty that would allow this sort of nonsense in the first place."

The MPAA has reacted with this statement to The Hollywood Reporter:

"As we await further developments, we would like to express our gratitude to US law enforcement authorities, and their colleagues in the UK, for bringing the case against Mr. O’Dwyer to what appears to be a successful conclusion. TV Shack was a major facilitator of online content theft, interfering with the ability of our members and other legitimate business people to develop new, innovative, and legal ways to bring movies and television shows to fans around the world.”

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