US Calls For Extradition Of UK Web Pirates

A US agency official has said that .com or .net addresses fall under their jurisdiction in piracy battle

Website owners could face extradition to the US for breaches of copyright even if they have no connection to the US and are not directly hosting copyrighted material.

That is according to an official from the US’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Erik Barnett, Assistant Deputy Director at ICE told the Guardian newspaper that website owners with .com addresses could face extradition even if the activity was legal in the UK.

The basis for prosecution, says Barnett, is that the addresses are routed through American Internet infrastructure owner Verisign, based in Virginia.

“The jurisdiction we have over these sites right now really is the use of the domain name registry system in the United States. That’s the key,” he said.

A point of law

Whether it is illegal in the UK to link to pirated material rather than host it has been a growing source of debate.

A prosecution against website TV-Links for doing just that was thrown out of court last year amid doubts any law had even been broken.

Richard O’Dwyer, a computer science student at Sheffield Hallam University is currently facing extradition to the US over his website, which catalogued links to non-licensed movie and TV streams.

It is claimed his site had no US connection and did not run through servers based anywhere outside of Britain, and no copyrighted material was hosted on the site.

TVShack was targeted as part of  ICE’s Operation In Our Sites campaign against online piracy, which has seized the domain names of 125 unlicensed film, TV and Sport websites and physical merchandise sites.

The UK’s current extradition agreement with the USA, signed in 2003, is highly controversial and was criticised in the case of NASA hacker Gary McKinnon.

Apsergers sufferer McKinnon hacked into NASA searching for eveidence of aliens and  has been battling extradition to the US for nearly ten years.

As it stands, the law does not currently allow judges to consider whether a case is heard in the UK or abroad.