Richard O’Dwyer, the founder of search engine TVShack.net, struck a deal with the federal government Wednesday in order to avoid extradition to the United States.
O’Dwyer opened the website in 2007, hoping to create an environment in which people could more easily find videos online. The decentralized nature of the Internet often makes searching difficult, so the key concept was that he would merely point users in the right direction.
TVShack never actually hosted material on its servers. Like Google, it acted as a navigation tool, and O’Dwyer wrote this clear in clear detail on the website.
“TV Shack is a simple resource site,” he wrote. “All content visible on this site is located at 3rd party websites. TV Shack is not responsible for any content linked to or referred from these pages.”
In June 2010, though, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized the domain. A release by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) clarified that it wasn’t charging O’Dwyer’s company for hosting copyright-infringing material but rather for the simple act of linking to other websites.
“[TVShack provides] access, or ‘links,’ to other websites where pirated movies and television programs are stored,” the seizure warrant states. “'Linking websites are popular because they allow users to quickly browse content and locate illegal copies of movies and television shows that would otherwise be more difficult to find.”
The DOJ later requested that O’Dwyer be extradited to the United States in order to face two charges of criminal copyright infringement. A London-based judge ruled in January 2012 that the prosecutors could, indeed, follow through with the extradition.
“There are said to be direct consequences of criminal activity by Richard O’Dwyer in the U.S.A. albeit by him never leaving the north of England,” District Judge Quentin Purdy wrote in his opinion. “I send the case to the Secretary of State (for her consideration of the statutory criteria) pursuant to Section 87(3) Ex Act 2003.”
U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May approved the decision in July.
After months of consideration, the defendant’s attorneys agreed to a “deferred prosecution” through which O’Dwyer will travel to the United States and pay an undisclosed sum in compensation for the alleged crimes.
“I didn't know this was going to happen today — I’m at work!” his mother said. “I read a comment on Twitter with someone reporting what the judge had said and just burst into tears.”
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