Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Obama quizzed on TVShack accused Richard O'Dwyer extradition

US President Barack Obama has faced questions over attempts to extradite a South Yorkshire student accused of breaking American copyright laws.

Richard O'Dwyer, 23, set up the TVShack website which US authorities say hosted links to pirated copyrighted material.

Mr Obama said intellectual property must be protected in a way "consistent with internet freedom".

Mr O'Dwyer's mother welcomed the president's comments, saying they would "raise awareness" of her son's case.

Mr O'Dwyer's case topped a list of subjects American voters put to the president during an online question-and-answer session.

Mr Obama told participants in Monday's web discussion that he was not personally involved in the case.

Image caption Mr O'Dwyer could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison if found guilty

Mr O'Dwyer, a Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate, faces jail if convicted of the allegations.

His lawyers said he would be the first British citizen to be extradited for such an offence and would effectively become a "guinea pig" for copyright law in the US.

A court ruled earlier in January that the student could be sent to the US to face trial.

It came after his legal team told Westminster Magistrates' Court that the TVShack website did not store copyrighted material itself but merely pointed users to other sites, in the same way that Google and Yahoo operate.

'Appallingly harsh'

Mr O'Dwyer was arrested by City of London Police in November 2010.

The US authorities allege he received more than $230,000 (around £147,000) in advertising revenue between 2008 and 2010 when his site was shut down.

Mr O'Dwyer's mother, Julia O'Dwyer, from Chesterfield, said it was "tremendous" that questions about her son's case had reached President Obama.

"At least it will raise a bit of awareness over there. Now even Americans have woken up to the US administration's excessive use of the extradition laws between our countries," she said.

"Given our government won't protect its own citizens, it's up to Mr Obama to put a stop to the ridiculous and appallingly harsh attempts to extradite Richard, and others facing similarly unnecessary treatment."

Mrs O'Dwyer had earlier said she was "disgusted" by the court's decision and claimed the UK's extradition treaty with the US needed "fixing fast".

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