If you manage to catch any radio phone-ins on the subject of Internet piracy it’s amazing how many supposedly law abiding citizens can justify downloading copyrighted films and music for free. The issue is very much in the news at the moment with the Wikipedia blackout in protest against new US anti-piracy laws Sopa (Stop Online Piracy Act), Pipa (Protect Intellectual Property Act) and the recent court case involving student Richard O’Dyer losing his fight against extradition to the US to face trial for copyright infringement.
Richard O’Dyer ran a very successful website TVshack which hosted a searchable link directory to websites where people could download pirated films and TV series. The website was very popular, netting him over £150,000 in advertising income. However without any warning the US authorities obtained a warrant and seized the domain name in June 2010.
I can be sympathetic with his predicament up to a point: he received no prior warning, his website contained only links to pirated content and extradition will not be a pleasant experience. However, he was effectively acting as an accessory to the crime of copyright infringement and doing it very successfully. Anyone harbouring romantic notions of the little guy hitting back against profiteering big film studios and record companies should think about TVshack in terms of providing links to stolen goods. The proposed US legislation as drafted is probably bad law, but the problem is real and needs to be addressed.