American Internet Imperialism

Think about this for a second: you are a good, law abiding citizen, and thus break no local laws. Your state has no reason to bring criminal charges against you. Your actions, however, are provisionally criminal in another jurisdiction. As a result, despite your actions being perfectly legal in your home nation you are threatened with extradition. This is not a theoretical concern:

TVShack was a site that collected links to TV shows. Certainly, many of those shows were likely to be infringing – but TVShack did not host the content at all, it merely linked to it. Richard O’Dwyer, the guy who ran the site, was a student building an interesting project over in the UK. However, the US Department of Justice decided that he was not only a hardened criminal, but one who needed to be tried on US soil. Thus, it began extradition procedures. Even worse, nearly identical sites in the UK had already been found legal multiple times – with the court noting that having links to some infringing content was certainly not criminal copyright infringement. That makes things even more ridiculous, because extradition is only supposed to be allowed for activities that are criminal in both the US and the UK. [Emphasis added]

The implications for extradition would be significant: UK citizens could be extradited to certain countries for actions that are legal within their own nations, on the basis that they violate the laws of other countries. It is precisely this kind of process that can stifle innovation, speech, and association online. It narrows the range of speech actions whilst demanding that – prior to speaking or acting or creating – individuals consult with counsel as the first part of any serious online behaviour.

Such an approach – lawyers, then speech – is directly contradictory with basic rights that form the bedrock of our Western democracies.

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