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ORG letter to Home Office about Richard O'Dwyer

Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Home Secretary
Home Office
2 Marsham Street,
London, SW1P 4DF

February 27th 2012

Dear Home Secretary,

We are writing to you to express our concern regarding the extradition proceedings undertaken by the United States of America against Richard O'Dwyer.

Richard O'Dwyer set up and ran a website called TVShack.net from his bedroom in Sheffield. The 'servers' for the site were located in the Netherlands. The United States claim that the website contained links to material covered by copyright including TV episodes and films, and that this resulted in the infringement of U.S copyright laws. On 13th January 2012, district judge Quentin Purdy ruled that Mr O'Dwyer should be extradited and prosecuted in the United States.

We understand that the U.S. Government claims jurisdiction because 'TVShack.net' used a 'dot-net' domain. They claim that the use of the 'dot-com', 'dot-net' or 'dot-org' domains gives them the right to assert U.S laws globally, because these domains are managed by American companies such as 'Verisign'.

The use of generic top-level domains as non-country specific identifiers is entrenched. Richard O'Dwyer operated the site in question from his home town Sheffield. It appears his servers were based in the Netherlands. We are therefore extremely concerned about the ability of the United States to claim jurisdiction in this case.

The decision to extradite Mr O' Dwyer in these circumstances would have significant implications. It would effectively expose any UK citizen to United States law simply for being involved in a website using a 'dot-com' address, even if they never leave their home town. It would also create legal uncertainty for the innovative technology start-ups that are the constituents of the UK's emerging digital economy.

For this reason we urge you to refuse the request for extradition. We also urge you to review the likely unintended consequences that such claims of jurisdiction will have on both innovation and the rights of citizens in the UK.

Best regards,

Jim Killock

Executive Director
Open Rights Group