July 16, 2012

A Search Service Runs Awry of © [9:25 pm]

A test of contributory infringement and search? U.S. Pursuing a Middleman in Web Piracy [pdf]

Richard O’Dwyer, an enterprising 24-year-old college student from northern England, has found himself in the middle of a fierce battle between two of America’s great exports: Hollywood and the Internet.

At issue is a Web site he started that helped visitors find American movies and television shows online. Although the site did not serve up pirated content, American authorities say it provided links to sites that did. The Obama administration is seeking to extradite Mr. O’Dwyer from Britain on criminal charges of copyright infringement. The possible punishment: 10 years in a United States prison.

The case is the government’s most far-reaching effort so far to crack down on foreigners suspected of breaking American laws. It is unusual because it goes after a middleman, who the authorities say made a fair amount of money by pointing people to pirated content. Mr. O’Dwyer’s backers say the prosecution goes too far, squelching his free-speech right to publish links to other Web sites.

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