Reach Out and Jail Someone: Another Copyright Extradition Approved
U.K. Home Secretary Teresa May has approved the extradition of 23 year old British student Richard O'Dwyer to the U.S for criminal copyright infringement.
O'Dwyer has never set foot in the U.S., never run a server in the U.S., and didn't host copyrighted material on his website, TV Shack.net. What he did: He ran a website from his basement which included links to sites that had pirated material and his site generated advertising revenue.
His site was shut down as part of ICE's Operation in Our Sites, and the U.S. sought his extradition. In January, a U.K. court ruled he could be extradited to the U.S.. The connection to the U.S. is simply that he bought the domain name (.net) from Verisign, which is in the U.S. [More...]
From today's BBC article:
Mr O'Dwyer has argued that TVShack did not store copyright material itself and merely directed users to other sites, making it similar to Google.
According to the Guardian, ICE Assistant Deputy Director Erik Barnett disagrees:
"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." The only necessary "nexus to the US" is a .com or .net web address for which Verisign acts as the official registry operator.
We are becoming the world's jailer. While we deny entry to thousands who want to come here and work, we spare no expense in hauling others to our shores against their will to face criminal charges that have little or no connection to the U.S. -- and then we shell out millions to incarcerate them for years at our expense.
There are over 200,000 federal inmates in our prison system, run by the Bureau of Prisons. By the end of 2012, according to the 2012 Prison Performance Budget there will be 221,000,which requires funding for 2012 of $6.7 billion.
BOP has more than 20,000 prison guards, a total staff of 32,000, and plans to add more. Why? BOP facilities are now operating at 35% over capacity. By the end of 2012, BOP expects they will be operating at 40% over capacity.
Crowding is a very real danger in prisons – causing frustration and anger for inmates whose access to basic necessities like toilets, showers, and meals becomes very limited and who face hours of idleness resulting from a limited availability of productive work and program opportunities. Crowding also strains facilities’ infrastructure like water, sewage, and power systems, and increases the maintenance service needed to keep these systems operational.
To relieve overcrowding, rather than release non-violent inmates, or be more selective in who it prosecutes, DOJ seeks to increase the BOP budget and spend $305 million to "begin activation" of three more prisons, hire 1,672 more prison guards and oodles of additional staffers.
The more inmates, the higher the medical costs. There are 11,000 federal inmates with Hepatitis C. Just testing inmates for the disease costs $4 million a year. A 48 week treatment regimen costs $6,000. per inmate. Actual medical costs for inmates in 2010 were $495 million-- and that doesn't include staff costs.
Food costs are high. BOP estimates it will serve over 199 million meals-- nearly 544,000 meals per day and over 3.8 million meals per week-- at a cost of over $200 million per year, not including salaries.
What will the total tab be for extraditing, trying, and if convicted, incarcerating 23 year old student Richard O'Dwyer? How much did the State Department and DOJ pay to launch and litigate the extradition battle? Once he gets here, will he be detained for months until trial? Will he have a court appointed lawyer at our expense? How much will the trial cost? If he's convicted, it will cost $23,000 a year to incarcerate him. And then he'll be deported back to the U.K. What a colossal waste of our money.
It's not just Richard O'Dwyer. It's the MegaUpload defendants. It's the DEA's African sting victims who had no intention of bringing drugs to the U.S but were shipping drugs from South America to Africa to Europe. And many many more.
President Obama is not willing to intervene. In January, he said:
“One of the ways our system works is that the president doesn’t get involved in prosecution decisions or extradition decisions. “We want to make sure intellectual property is protected. We want to make sure that the creative works of people in this country aren’t expropriated.”
This new interpretation of U.S. global outreach-- reach out and jail someone -- should be rejected. The people who can stop it are in Congress. They vote on budgets. They have the authority to pass laws determining the length of prison sentences and amount of prison good time. They can restrict extra-territorial jurisdiction and extraditions.
With the upcoming November elections, this is a good time to let incumbents and their challengers know you oppose the economic burden caused by this runaway extradition policy and that we have too many people in prison at home, we certainly don't need to be in the business of importing more.
Richard O'Dwyer's mother shouldn't be the only one outraged. We should be too.
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