It’s truly amazing what the government can do when it sets its mind to it. The Obama Justice Department has made a name for itself by going after internet “pirates”, read: people who Hollywood believes is costing it money.
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.
(via New York Times)
When I was in law school, and I admit it was a different era, it was considered black letter law that a country’s criminal jurisdiction stopped at its borders. That is, it could not punish a person for behavior that violated its laws, if that behavior took place elsewhere. I’m fairly certain that we still hold to that rule in reverse, and that we’re not about to allow other countries to put our citizens in jail for activities performed here and legal here. Apparently, England feels differently, as Mr. O’Dwyer is going to be extradited, if court rulings against him stand up.
But, sleeping under bridges, and all that. The law, I’m sure, would forbid bankers to do as Mr. O’Dwyer has done, secure in the knowledge that they wouldn't do it, but somehow can’t find a way to prosecute them for the criminal behavior that we all know helped bring the economy to its knees. More akin to O'Dwyer’s situation, the law can’t seem to find a way to stop corporations from avoiding their taxes by taking advantage of offshore tax shelters. A British citizen is subject to U.S. copyright law, but somehow it’s impossible to subject American corporations to U.S. tax law, not to mention Republican candidates.