Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales has come to the defence, of UK university student Richard O'Dwyer, accusing the influential US copyright lobby of over-zealousness in their pursuit of the former TVShack admin.
The story of Richard O'Dwyer, is one that's both hard to believe, but still nonetheless real. Having operated TVShack as a part-time passion, as a place where people could submit and search for links to popular, and sometimes infringing, content on the Internet, the last thing O'Dwyer expected would be a near two-year fight against an extradition order to the United States, where O'Dwyer could end up being sentenced to 10 years in prison.
But despite not hosting any copyright content on the website, linking to websites as common as YouTube, and with the case against him dropped by UK authorities, US government prosecutors, aided by Hollywood studios, have mercilessly pursued O'Dwyer since raiding his apartment (and his mother's house) in November of 2010. Legal precedents set in the UK allowed operators of similar linking sites to walk-free, which offers an explanation as to why US authorities are so keen to extradite the 24-year-old undergrad studying multimedia in Sheffield, northern England.
This David vs Goliath fight has now caught the attention of Wikipedia founder and copyright campaigner Jimmy Wales, who this week launched an online petitionto ask the UK Home Office to stop the extradition of Richard, as well as writing an op-ed in The Guardian to explain his stance on the issue.
"Copyright is an important institution, serving a beneficial moral and economic purpose. But that does not mean that copyright can or should be unlimited. It does not mean that we should abandon time-honoured moral and legal principles to allow endless encroachments on our civil liberties in the interests of the moguls of Hollywood," posted Wales on the petition website, change.org.
"Richard O'Dwyer is the human face of the battle between the content industry and the interests of the general public. Earlier this year, in the fight against the anti-copyright bills SOPA and PIPA, the public won its first big victory. This could be our second."
Wales was an instrumental voice in the Internet campaign to oppose the controversial SOPA/PIPA copyright bills, culminating in a day of protest that saw Wales' Wikipedia, and thousands of other websites (including Digital Digest), being blacked out for an entire day back in January.