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March 21, 2012 | Krean Naicker

Home Office replies to ORG about Richard O'Dwyer extradition


Following the decision in Richard O'Dwyer's court case, we wrote to the Home secretary regarding his possible extradition, expressing concern about the exertion of jurisdiction by the US. We have now received a reply from the Home Office.

In our letter we expressed our concerns about websites and their operators being subject to US law because they merely used a .com, .net or .org domain.

The US Government claims that they can assert jurisdiction since these domains are managed by American companies, such as Verisign.

The response was from Damian Green, the Minister of State for Immigration and, according to the letter, the Minister responsible for extradition (even though it is the Home Secretary who makes the big decision on whether extradition should go ahead). He states that the US is entitled to seek Mr O'Dwyer's extradition since the UK courts have held that the US does have jurisdiction. It is disappointing that the Minister has opted to describe to us the processes involved regarding requests for extradition, instead of addressing our very specific concerns of the wider implications of this decision. Our letter and the subsequent response can be found below.

It's not easy to understand exactly why the US are asserting jurisdiction in this case. It's easier to look at this from the other end. Why are the UK Government allowing a man that ran a website in Sheffield, the legality of which has not been established here, to be taken by US authorities for trial in the USA, where he faces graver punishments?

The answer is not only important for Richard O'Dwyer and his family, but for anybody running a website here who wants to understand which nations law enforcement authorities they are subject to. We had hoped the Government would at least be clear why they are allowing this to happen, and would do everybody the service of an explanation. Instead, the reply amounts to: 'this is acceptable because the court said it is acceptable.' Which sounds more like the Government enjoyed a rubber stamping exercise, rather than an examination of the issues.

Legal expert Graham Smith has written an excellent Q&A about copyright and extradition, ahead of his talk at ORGCon on these issues next Saturday. There are still a few tickets left.

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