Precis - The Home Secretary has approved the extradition to the US of Richard O’Dwyer, a student accused of copyright infringement.

What? An English judge had previously ruled that O’Dwyer could be extradited to the United States. The Home Secretary has now approved the extradition.

So what? If extradited, the case may open the flood gates for further extraditions of British citizens to the US for similar offences.

US authorities allege that O’Dwyer earned over US$230,000 in advertising revenue from the website, which provided links to copyright material.  In January, a UK judge ruled that O’Dwyer could be extradited to the US to face trial for alleged copyright offences, as reported by us here. Following the judgment, the Home Secretary has now approved O’Dwyer’s extradition.

The decision to sign the order for extradition has provoked angry reaction, resulting in a petition with over 20,000 signatures to stop his extradition. O'Dwyer himself commented: "I've done nothing wrong under UK law, and, it's pretty ridiculous isn't it?”

The case raises interesting cross-border copyright issues. In the US, there is precedent which bolsters the copyright owner’s claim that O’Dwyer’s actions constitute copyright infringement. The legal position in the UK is far less clear, however, following the 2010 TV Links case. This case was an unsuccessful prosecution for copyright infringement in the UK courts which was based on broadly similar facts, making the prospects of successfully prosecuting O’Dwyer in the UK less likely. This explains why the US authorities wish to try O’Dwyer in the US rather than in the UK.

O’Dwyer will not be extradited immediately – he is appealing the Home Secretary’s decision, which is likely to result in lengthy delays.