Saturday, July 14, 2012

Richard O'Dwyer

Richard O'Dwyer is a British citizen living in Britain who established a website based in Britain, which catered to British viewers and was legal under British law. However, the United States has asked that he be extradited to face charges in the US on the grounds that his website, had it been in the US would have been illegal under US law.

The website in question hosted links. The links pointed to copyrighted content which had been uploaded to third-party websites without permission from the copyright owners. However, O'Dwyer hosted no infringing content on his own site, and so his site did not violate any UK law.

This is a case about copyright, obviously. And it's about justice, just as obviously. But it's also fundamentally about sovereignty. The fundamental question at the heart of this matter is: Does the United States Congress have the power to pass laws that are applicable in Britain? Are British citizens required to obey United States laws in their own country?

If Britain agrees to extradite O'Dwyer, then Britain will cease to be a sovereign nation. If Britain agrees that O'Dwyer should be extradited to a country he's never been to because that country's laws must be obeyed at home, then Britain will become, in essence, a colony of the United States.

The case hasn't been decided yet, but I will be preemptively destroying my irony meter to offset the risk of catastrophic explosion.

Oh, and the final absurdity: I'm not quite up to date on the matter, but I'm fairly certain O'Dwyer's website was legal under US law as well. It can be a bit hard to tell though; US copyright law is somewhat analogous to British libel law and I will never be surprised at the nonsense churned out from it.

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