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British computer student facing extradition for linking to illegal film downloads

Richard O'Dwyer behind TVShack website

A British computer student is facing extradition to the US for creating a website that offers download links to pirated films and TV shows.

Richard O'Dwyer, who studies computer science at Sheffield Hallam University, is behind the TVShack website that provide web users with links to locations they could illegally download copyrighted movie and TV programmes including The Hangover and Lost.

The original URL TVShack.net was seized by US authorities in July last year. O'Dwyer then moved the website to TVShack.cc, which was also seized in November. According to O'Dwyer's mother, he then closed down the site after being contacted by UK police. US authorities have now placed an official warning about illegally downloading content on the site.

"If Richard has done something wrong it is right it is dealt with," O'Dwyer's mother told The Telegraph. "But it doesn't seem right that Richard, who hasn't been to America since he was five years old, should be taken there. No-one would be able to visit him and he could be waiting in prison for a couple of years before his case is even heard. He should be tried here."

O'Dwyer's lawyers plan to oppose the extradition and will argue he should face trial in the UK as TVShack's servers were not hosted in the US.

"The server was not based in the US at all. Mr O'Dwyer did not have copyrighted material on his website; he simply provided a link. The essential contention is that the correct forum for this trial is in fact here in Britain, where he was at all times," said, O'Dwyer's lawyer Ben Cooper.

NASA hacker Gary McKinnon has been facing a similar battle against extradition since 2005. McKinnon, who is an Asperger's sufferer, is accused of breaking into US military computers, including those belonging to NASA, in a bid to prove the US government had knowledge of UFOs in 2001.

The US claims McKinnon's hacking activities caused $700,000 (£433,000) worth of damage. He's also accused of stealing 950 passwords, deleting files at a naval base in New Jersey and rendering the military computer networks used following September 11 useless. He was first arrested in 2002.

If the Home Secretary decides the extradition will breach McKinnon's human rights, it can be halted but a decision has yet to be made.

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