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TV Shack owner strikes deal to avoid extradition (bbc.co.uk)
36 points by rwmj on Nov 28, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

Gah, this story always gets me riled up. I'm of the stance that linking to copyright material should most definitely NOT be breaking the law. It doesn't make sense on a number of levels (e.g. What position does this put any search engine in) but additionally he's not actually stolen the content, nor is he providing it, he is merely facilitating the access of it. Its equivalent to a sign on the street saying, "The staff have left this store, take what you want" and I really can't see how that could be construed to breaking the law.

However I think there are other more technical issues that are not based on morality, such as the fact that the destination of a link can change without with the any indication. One minute a link could point to example.com and the next, a copyright infringing video on another video host.

I do realise that in this case there was intent to provide a resource for those looking to illegally watch online content, but that is all it is, a resource.

And the Brit inside me is also getting wound up by the US's involvement in this, the whole extradition thing is completely over the top and as much as I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist exclaiming Hollywoods influence over the government, in this case I think its bang on. I completely agree with the sentiment expressed at the end, that "the US cannot be allowed to be the copyright cops of the world".

I too got riled up about this linking to copyrighted material being a crime, certainly an extraditable one.

You can't really compare a search engine to a site like TV-links. A search engine doesn't discriminate in what content it indexes. If a search engine would only link to copyright-infringing material, then that search engine can expect as much trouble as a site like TV-links.

If a site mainly exists to facilitate copyright infringement, should it get a pass?

If dealing drugs is against the law, what is directing people on the street to drug dealers?

Things like changing link destinations are interesting from a technical point of view, but not all that relevant to this case IMO. If the site was a chatroulette for online links, this might come into play, but for TV links to have a changing link, in all likelihood it meant simply a broken link.

Indeed, most of this boils down to intent. Pointing people on the street to where they can buy drugs or selling them pipes to facilitate drug use, to me, it isn't the same as dealing the drugs yourself. But I can totally see you can find yourself on the wrong side of the law, when you start facilitating illegal activity.

Again, I agree that linking to content should always be possible, but I can understand where the law and entertainment industry is coming from.

Yeah I completely understand this point of view and I was toying with removing the reference to search engines, but ultimately it boils down to the same thing in all cases, as mentioned in the article:

> US authorities claimed the 24-year-old's TVShack website hosted links to pirated films and TV programmes.

Regardless of the inherent properties of search engines, they are still linking to that content (or to content that links to the content).

I do understand the point of view of the Law, but I think ultimately it can't and shouldn't be enforced.

" A search engine doesn't discriminate in what content it indexes."

That is incorrect.


Tubetrooper certainly discriminates.

Robots.txt doesn't have anything to do with this. Google adheres to robots.txt, but doesn't discriminate in the kind of content it indexes.

Search engines can certainly specialize, like in your (unnecessary) porn site example. But if they specialize in providing links to copyright-infringing material, make profit with advertisements, they can get in just as much trouble.

The OP made the comparison with search engines. How come they can have copyright-infringing links and not get into trouble? It is because they index all information available to them, without discrimination. And then they still have to respond to DMCA claims.

If a search engine specialized in engineering parts, it wouldn't need to host links to copyright-infringing material, so most specialized search engines are a non-issue.

> "The staff have left this store, take what you want" and I really can't see how that could be construed to breaking the law.

This is both breaking the law and a poor analogy.

I'm sorry, I don't understand, how would telling someone that the staff have left the store be breaking the law. And why do you think its a poor analogy. Its a sign post directing people to a place where they could easily access content illegally. Very similar to what TV Shack was doing.

The analogy only fails in the sense that in reality the item stolen was digital media (it could be argued that nothing of value is lost) and in the shop scenario, the content is physical media (and therefore value is directly lost). Despite the difference though, thats irrelevant to the action played by TV Shack (and the sign in the analogy).

It is the second part of the sign that makes the act of posting it most likely illegal (at least in the UK) as incitement [1].

The analogy's main issue is that it fails to distinguish between theft and copyright infringement which is exactly what the anti-piracy bridge are often accused of doing. Also, a sign is a poor analogy as it is in passive view of the public. A better one (ignoring the theft/infringement issue) would be a guy sitting in a pub who would tell anyone who asked him which stores had no staff in, and that they could take what they wished.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incitement

I realise that incitement is illegal in the UK, but it is America that is pushing for the extradition. I would also argue that a website is in full view of the public (especially with the amount of sharing that occurs).

But like I said in my original response, it doesn't matter whether or not it is copyright infringement or theft, as in the analogy we are discussing the actions of TV Shack not the actual hosting of the material.

What I mean is, this isn't a discussion about whether copyright infringement is illegal, but instead whether linking is illegal, and I think the two crimes presented are comparable enough (although definitely not the same), for the difference to be easily overlooked for the sake of getting across a message.

If you're going to have that discussion, you shouldn't use a poor analogy, nor should you state that said analogy is not illegal, when it could well be the case that it is.

The US legal distinction is "substantial non-infringing use". If you are up to something and, like a search engine, happen to facilitate IP infringement, you're good. If there is no significant purpose to your service other than to help crime, it's criminal.

There are plenty of similar crimes: Conspiracy, harboring a known fugitive, material support for terrorism, receiving stolen goods, RICO. These can be misapplied, but the basic principle is reasonable: helping people commit crime can itself be criminal.

I don't think that's the problem here. I think the problem is with an IP system that's built on assumptions 100 years out of date.

"Under the deal, the student will promise not to break copyright laws again in the knowledge that he will be liable for prosecution if he does."

If that's literally what the deal says, I contend that is a completely impossible promise to keep.

Why is the US suddenly softening its stance in this case, both suggesting and approving such a "slap on the wrists"? They are currently trying to salvage what they can from UKs u-turn on their extradition deal (see the recent Gary Mckinnon stories). They don't want the extradition deal testing in court in the UK at the moment while they negotiate hard with the UK government, i.e. they don't want the UK courts to force the governments hand in any way before it forms its new policy.

It would be nice if they had suddenly mellowed and realised that it wasn't the crime of the century, but alas it's not the case.

Yup. I also suspect that the US government itself doesn't give a fig for these copyright crimes, but is very concerned that any change to the law could prevent them extraditing UK-resident terrorist suspects to the US.

A week before Gary McKinnon was suddenly found to be non medically fit to be extradited to the US & the announcement that the law was to be reformed several individuals charged with terrorist-related crimes were extradited to the US by the UK. I personally doubt the order of these events was a co-incidence.

I guess they try to avoid cases with too much media attention. Look at the negative press that the Megaupload case is bringing to them.

> Mr O'Dwyer will travel to the US voluntarily in the next few weeks for the deal to be formally ratified, it is understood.

IANAL but I don't think this will work as he and/or the UK justice thinks

As I understand it he made a deal with US, not UK, authorities.

I dunno, it would seem mightely stupid of the US authorities to drag him off in chains as soon as he's on US soil. If they do that, they might have a hell of a problem the next time they want to extradite anyone.

Not to mention that you're now into "diplomatic incident" terroritory. I doubt the UK will sit by while a (white anglo) UK citizen is duped into going to the US and then imprisoned.

I may be reading into this a bit more than needed, but, why the inclusion of the white anglo?

Do you think the UK government would be more likely to let any other ethnic origin UK citizen, be duped, imprisoned and not be bothered?


You can argue whether they did enough to prevent the abuses of British citizens. They were all, eventually, released. But we don't know how hard the Government fought for them.

That was more 'covering my ass', I'm sure there are examples of the UK handing some people over.

The UK used to imprison without trial on UK soil some of it's UK citizens for terrorism crimes during it's recent civil war/unrest in Northern Ireland.

Yes but the situation here isn't a handing over is it really? This isn't/won't be an extradition.

If the US were to arrest him on arrival when they have pretty much inferred he has nothing to fear, that would be something else. I would hope regardless of ethnic origin that the UK government would do everything in its power to have the citizen released.

I'm not really clued up on the Northern Ireland conflicts, I do however find the idea of locking people up without trial and keeping them detained for long periods of time, barbaric, regardless of what they are accused of.

I'm not really clued up on the Northern Ireland conflicts, I do however find the idea of locking people up without trial and keeping them detained for long periods of time, barbaric, regardless of what they are accused of.

Things in Northern Ireland are much calmer now than they were (which is great!). There's still a lot more to do though.

What's interesting is the things that didn't work but only made things worse. Interment without trial, made things worse, sending the army onto the streets made things worse. Car bombs by terrorists, or punishment shootings against 'informers', made things worse. This sort of violence makes things worse.

The extradition had been sorted out in the UK end and he was going to be sent to the US anyway. So there's no need for the US to arrange some deal to "trick" him into going to the US.

I'm curious why he has to go to actual America, and not just go to the embassy in London (which is US territory etc)?

> the embassy in London (which is US territory etc)?

It is not.


Wow, thanks for that. I'm surprised more people don't know this. I'll stop spreading the misinformation.

It is still completely pointless. This is a completely unorthodox process anyway, so why can't he just agree to pay the money and be done with?

Unless the answer is "because he shouldn't set a precedent": next time, the US government will still be able to say that all suspects were extradited in this sort of situation. Basically he's just being used to hack a statistic.

I'm surprised his lawyer hasn't picked up on this. The second he hits US soil he's roasted.

Uninformed comments like this belong on reddit, not here. I'll have a $100 bet with you he won't be roasted though. If you think you know more than his lawyer and the UK authorities in negotiating an international arrangement then it'll be easy money.

Wouldn't this be just like a plea bargain?

Once on US soil, with alleged crimes on US properties, he's under US law. If he has a signed deal that's something, if he's coming here with hope and a verbal agreement, as is enforced by honor in Europe, he's an idiot.

"Mr O'Dwyer will travel to the US voluntarily in the next few weeks for the deal to be formally ratified, it is understood"

Yeahhhhh he's not going to be coming back.

Ya know, I think it might be worth pointing out that the early business ventures of Woz and Jobs (of Apple computer) were in selling phone phreaking equipment.

It certainly seems to me as though IP infringement of movies and music has become the most dangerous white collar crime in existence, even ahead of outright fraud and embezzlement in the multi-million or billion dollar range. To me that seems like a miscarriage of justice which could warp our society in negative ways.

I contend it already has.

Locking arts and entertainment -- culture -- up for life plus 70 years (or 95 years for corporations) ensures it cannot be modified or built upon, as it had been for thousands of years prior to the mid-1970s, until it's completely irrelevant to the generations it's most influential upon.

> ... ensures it cannot be modified or built upon

That's not entirely true. For example, it's easy to draw clear lines of inspiration between past and present movies. The line between homage and plagiarism has always been blurry. Regardless of laws, our culture will always be a "remix" culture, it can't exist any other way. Everything we do is derivative.

But I agree, locking up arts in such a direct way is harmful. It creates unnatural roadblocks, and we'd be better off without them, but let's not get ahead of ourselves and claim that IP laws crush creativity.

The gulf between homage and derivative work is quite wide. Consider a few examples of famous derivative works: Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, Alice in Wonderland, Apocalypse Now, Muppet Christmas Carol. Right now there are no less than 3 different ongoing adaptations of Sherlock Holmes (the movie series, the BBC series, and CBS's Elementary series).

These are works that would be patently illegal if the source material were not in the public domain. This isn't just about "remix culture", it's about being able to adapt and interpret what's out there, fully and without restriction. Clearly there is value to allowing such artistic freedom once a work has grown sufficiently old. However, today that age has grown quite impractically long. A movie such as War of the Worlds (a 110+ year old book) can be made without seeking a licensing agreement, but movies such as The Hobbit (a 75 year old book), King Kong (79 years), The Chronicles of Narnia (62 years), Casino Royale (59 years), or The Dark Knight Rises (73 years) still require licensing.

And the sad part is that even in the next 20 years when, say, the Superman IP will be pushing 100 years old and Mickey Mouse even older it seems likely that such things will still require licensing.

The fact that the current IP laws have not utterly destroyed creativity or the productivity of creative industries is not a ringing endorsement. The fact is that they are stifling and they have been responsible for creating an industry which is too heavily controlled by a small group.

> The fact is that they are stifling and they have been responsible for creating an industry which is too heavily controlled by a small group.

I have had a sense that culture is somehow stifled, ever since I was a child. The notion that IP law is doing this makes sense.

An interesting case in point is to look at BBC's Sherlock TV show. It portrays a very different sort of Sherlock than people are used to, a Sherlock which is perhaps homosexual, a Sherlock who is described as a "high functioning sociopath", and a Sherlock who is portrayed as perhaps being a fraud. The sorts of things that probably wouldn't be possible if the IP had to be licensed but which result in the show being a huge critical success and having an extremely dedicated fan following.

Another example would be all of Shakespeare's plays, which predominantly would be considered derivative works of other recently written plays and stories at the time.

One can't help but wonder how many other equally daring ideas for derivative works have been shut down due to the excessive length of IP protection.

If that is worth pointing out, it's also worth pointing out that phreaking, as opposed to "piracy", is not a victimless IP-crime.

"The most typical use of a blue box [the device made and sold by Woz and Jobs] was to place free telephone calls"


They strike me as equivalently victim-y. In both cases, the industry would count the harm as the full market value of anything consumed by the criminal. Whereas the criminal would argue that they weren't going to be paying anyhow, so the industrial player is unharmed. And for both, there's no problem for anybody if it stays a minority activity, but if the behavior became a widespread norm it would destroy the industry.

No, they're not equivalent. With piracy, there is zero marginal cost to the content owner. There is the theoretical lost sale at most.

When phreaking, you're consuming a scarce resource. Maybe the resource was underutilized, but you can't know that. Either way, you're actively depriving the owner of the resource the usage of it.

I didn't say they were equivalent, just equivalently victim-y. In both cases, when it's a small fraction of normal use, then there was no appreciable impact. You couldn't know that phone phreaking had zero impact, but given that the phone system was engineered around very peaky load, your odds were very good.

Casual phone phreakers weren't a serious problem. Commercial ones were, I'm sure. But then so are commercial pirates.

It's a trap!

He should have said he had "aspergers".

TBH, I'd have been happier to see the McKinnon extradition go ahead than this one.

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