Jun 25, 2012

How can people who are following the law in their own country be guilty of committing criminal offenses in the US?

Richard O'Dwyer is the British kid who was running TVShack, a site that allowed users to share links to TV shows, an activity that is 100% legal in the UK. Nor were his servers located in the States. Nevertheless, he faced extradition to the States to face criminal charges for potentially violating US copyright law, even though he also removed links if someone who held a copyright notified him of it. Keep in mind, that we are talking about a 23 year old college student, and he is facing felony CRIMINAL charges, in other words hard time in prison, up to 5 years of it, possibly in addition to a massive fine, for link sharing. If someone in the UK can be extradited to a country to face criminal charges on such thin grounds, how can any of us be sure that we aren't doing something in the US that violates the criminal law of a country that has an extradition treaty with the US. For instance, if I were to write something negative about the King of Thailand, where there are strict lese majesty laws, why would that be any different than what O'Dwyer did? Would I face extradition to Thailand to face criminal charges because it was online? I find the O'Dwyer case deeply troubling. Am I overreacting, or are my concerns valid?

Countries have to learn to stand up to the US, and not give in to pressure. Some countries do this already, and they've survived just fine. It sounds like your country isn't one of them, unfortunately. Maybe more countries in the future will realize that letting the US bully them on these matters accomplishes nothing.

Honestly, I think you can rest assured that you will be protected by what folks in the good ole US of A call a "double standard".  We are going to demand the extradition of people from other countries for violating our laws, even when the actually connection to the US is tenuous at best, and many times we will get it.  It's just not worth it for many countries to bother with protecting an individual citizen, when in return for their acquiescence, they can receive access to US data bases, shared law enforcement tools, and maintain a "good relationship" with the US.  Is it bogus?  Yep, it sure is, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.  Just ask Kim Dotcom and the government of New Zealand.  Or Julian Assange.   


The example, you used of Thailand is interesting, because there is in fact an American imprisoned for writing negative things about the Thai King while living in the United States.  However, not only is that not illegal in the US, it is protected speech under the 1st Amendment, so I seriously doubt the US would ever entertain the possibility of extradition.  However, when he went to Thailand, he was arrested and as far as I know is still sitting in prison there.  


The specific example of Richard O'Dwyer reflects the current pro-censorship climate in much of the British Government.  The British have order Pirates Bay to be blocked by all ISPs, and are seeking ever expanding monitoring of citizens' internet use.  A week or two ago, there was a proposal by the Home Office to allow the "authorities" in the UK to have unrestricted access to all of the browsing history, emails, and texts messages of everyone in the country.  Frankly, I think they want to make an example out of this kid.  I used to live in England, and I think the Tories are making a big mistake by going along this road.  Funny thing is that they opposed similar Big Brotherism when Labour was in power.    

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