Wednesday, January 18, 2012

If you share suspect files can you be arrested and whisked off to the United States?

Yes. But only if you are unlucky.

Convicted NSW file sharer Hew Griffiths is watching events in the United Kingdom with a sense of foreboding.

A judge has ruled that a 23-year old British student who built an online site for sharing TV programs can be extradited to the United States to face trial and up to 10 years in jail, even though he never been there.

It’s thought to be the first time in Britain, but Hew Griffiths knows it can happen. He was bundled on a plane to the US in 2007 in what he believes was a pointless show of power that did nothing to stem on-line piracy.

“No-one ever thought such a thing could happen back then. If I had been charged at home I might have got a six month suspended sentence and a $1000 fine, maximum,” he told the Herald form his central coast home.

What he got was six months in a US prison after three years in Sydney’s Silverwater jail attempting to fight extradition...

He says the US was much better than Silverwater. It was safe, quiet and well-run.

Although he made no money from helping distribute pirated software and games, under US law he was deemed to have traded in stolen software and liable for ten years in jail.

He struck plea bargain because there was no choice.

“I would have been tried in the state of Virginia. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump from Washington, very conservative, and full of government employees. Federal prosecutors have a 90 per cent plus strike rate.”

“This guy’s best bet would be to give up and go there. He’s not going to win the case, but if he delays the prosecutors will throw the book at him. If he offers a deal there won’t be a problem. All they want are political brownie points. They don’t really want to tie up their prisons.”

Sheffield Hallam University computer science student Richard O’Dwyer plans to appeal the extradition ruling arguing that his website broke no British law because it merely enabled people to download TV programs rather than hosting them.

Mr Griffith believes US authorities know the prosecutions are pointless, but they want to be seen to be acting on behalf of firms such as Adobe, Microsoft and News Corporation.

“There’s more piracy than ever. Most people face no risk. It’s like a massive school of fish facing a shark. It’ll only ever eat a couple, there’s safety in numbers.”

“But if they go after you, you’re gone.”

Published in today's SMH and Age

Related Posts

. If it happened to Hew, it could happen to you

. Exclusive: Hew Griffiths to walk free tomorrow!

. Do most Australians have any idea what our Government has just signed us up to?

. What extending the copyright term exterminates