Richard O’Dwyer is a student from Sheffield in England. At the moment he is fighting an extradition order to the United States. As we all know, the US likes to style itself “the land of the free.” It seems, however, that some people are more free than others… and that the “others” part of the equation don’t even have to be US citizens, let alone live in the US.
Richard’s crime is that he set up a small website linking to sites where people could watch US TV and movies online. The studios would be grateful that Richard was drawing attention to their products, wouldn’t they? Um, no. They decided he was infringing copyright. Now, the first thing to note is that the site was merely “a ‘human-powered search engine’ for people looking for places to watch films, TV and documentaries online. Users could post links to video content – on YouTube, the now-defunct Google Video, MegaVideo or elsewhere – that contained full TV programmes or films. O’Dwyer’s site would check the link worked and add it to its search engine. The site quickly became a specialised search engine for TV and film content, plus a forum for people to discuss and review the films.”  Second, Richard complied with legal notices from publishers asking him to remove links, on the few occasions he received them.
According to The Age, “the US authorities became concerned about a site linking to content often still within copyright. To sell a counterfeit CD or DVD of a copyrighted work is an offence, as is deliberately uploading such a work to the internet. American customs officials, after campaigning from industry bodies [emphasis mine], contended that linking to such items on other sites (as search engines and others automatically do) would also be covered by such laws. This is a contentious interpretation of the law, even in the US, where linking has in some court cases been regarded as protected speech under the first amendment.” 
If linking in this way is an extraditable offence, why aren’t these “authorities” pursuing Google, Bing and all the other search engines? Maybe it’s something to do with Richard’s status as an individual – a uni student without the multi-million dollar legal teams retained by companies like Google and Bing’s owner Microsoft. Pardon my cynicism.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has defended Richard O’Dwyer, and started an online petition to ask the UK home affairs minister to stop his extradition.
Once again, the studios demonstrate their head-in-the-sand approach to copyright matters. Shame on them.
On the other hand…
Elgato, a company that makes PVR software and TV tuners for computers became aware that gamers were pirating Elgato’s EyeTV video recording software to record the video coming out of their game consoles. Using the movie/TV moguls’ approach, Elgato would trot out its lawyers and demand that people stop infringing its copyright… right?
Actually, they didn’t. They first looked at how people were using their software. Gamers were making recordings using EyeTV and video capture cards, then uploading the results to sites like Youtube. Elgato decided it could offer a better solution. “We ended up finding [pirated] registration keys on YouTube where people were describing how to use our TV software and capturing devices but connected to gaming consoles. We could have continued to blacklist all the pirated keys and try to fight back. Instead we looked at the combination of capturing devices, software and workflows people were using, and at the results they were getting,” said Lars Felber, the company’s product marketing manager. “We decided that we could do better, with dedicated hardware and software which was really tailored to gamers’ needs and would help them get better results.” 
Elgato now produces the Game Capture HD, an elegant (and fairly cheap) way for people to record video from game consoles. Mr Felber remarked, “The response from gamers has been great. Looking at their requirements and giving them what they wanted has certainly been a good move for us.”
Are you listening, entertainment industry?
,  The unlikely poster boy for a culture war: how a knock on the door changed film fan Richard’s life forever