Is Griffiths the new Hicks?

David Hicks may be coming home, but Hew Griffiths has been extradited to the USA on charges of copyright infringement. He allegedly cracked software and distributed it for free — with the US-based copyright holders claiming it cost them A$60 million in lost revenue.

In 2003, the US Department of Justice charged Griffiths with violating the copyright laws of the US, and requested his extradition from Australia. Senator Ellison signed a notice for Griffiths’ arrest and Australian Federal Police arrested him at his home.

And after exhausting every avenue of appeal, Ellison had the final say, and handed Griffiths over to the US.

Zowee. So now you can be extradited to a foreign country on the basis of an alleged copyright crime that took place at home? Yikes. As Jeremy points out, does this mean China can apply for extradition of Australian democracy activists?

Update lunchtime. See also: Josh on Geekrant: Disproportionate Response? Slashdot: Australian Extradited For Breaking US Law At Home

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6 Replies to “Is Griffiths the new Hicks?”

  1. Hey (or G’day ?)

    That’s an awesome blog you have here ! I landed on your diary browsing the web and I must say that you have an impressive collection of posts and writing. Nice blog-website !

    I browse some of the old post, will try to read more tomorrow !

  2. In related news, Kylie Minogue is being extradited to Saudi Arabia for breaking decency laws… in Saudi Arabia.

    Hey, what she does is ILLEGAL OVER THERE, man. I say send her there. This is PRECEDENT, dammit.

    Have YOU broken any Zimbabwe laws… lately?

  3. I think it’s a shockingly sad precedent that Australia can’t see fit to prosecute him in Australia with Australian courts doing the work. It’s essentially saying to me, “well, we better not stir the pot otherwise Big Brother U.S. will get upset with us”. What would be interesting to see is if Canada has a similar thing happen. I wrote, and asked Dr. Michael Geist, a law professor here in Ottawa, what he thought may happen in the case of a Canadian in this situation. His answer was short and succinct: Don’t know, interesting thought.

    What is wrong is that because this guy made $50 million software available, that that in turn cost them $60 million in revenue. That doesn’t necessarily hold true! Who honestly pays full retail price for any software? Honestly, student/teacher bundles make up a huge number of sales.

    Better yet, just use open source ;) Ubuntu is the best :)

  4. It’s taken me a while to catch up with my weekly TCWF this week, but …

    Oh boy!

    Tim – no, as far as I know I have not broken any of the laws of Zimbabwe. Not that it would matter if I had, unless I’d violated copyright since 1980. As for Kylie – as long as she hadn’t violated any copyrights from the countries where her other activities might be illegal, she’s in no danger, either.

    Toria – you’re not looking at this the right way. First, it’s no use asking any sort of legal person for “opinions” on stuff like this. They are not in the business of being “short and succinct”. If they were, countries’ statute books would not run to hundreds of millions (billions?) of pages! Second, the article on the “51st state” – absolute drivel!!! Probably written by a journalist (who should know better) when asked by an editor for something to fill a few column-inches that hadn’t been sold for ads. As for open source, well let’s examine that shall we? Commercial software providers say, “The software you have just bought ought to perform a certain task, but probably won’t. If it doesn’t, then it’s our fault because we got it wrong, but we don’t care and you can’t sue us anyway, so get stuffed!” They say this with A Straight Face and A Stern Frown, in A Very Serious Voice. The providers of open source software say almost the same thing (substituting the word “acquired” for “bought”), but they add, ” … if you like, you can change the package in any way you like and redistribute it, so long as you *also* remind people that they can get stuffed.” However, *they* say all this with A Big, Happy Smile and A Merry Laugh in their voice! Hooray.

    Comparing the Hicks and Griffiths cases is not possible.

    First, Mr Hicks was captured, arrested and incarcerated by a regime which has some traditions, but no morals and no ethics – the U.S. military. (And there goes any hope I might have had of ever getting a visa to visit America!) And because that regime knew that the laws of their own country (not to mention various international laws and conventions) forbade what they wanted to do with him, they tucked him away in a place where they could legitimately (?) claim that no such laws (U.S. or international) applied.

    On the other hand, Mr Griffiths has fallen foul of the “Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works” and associated treaties and agreements (there are currently five) as applied to computer software. This convention – which the U.S.A. only decided to become a party to when it became obvious what a nice little earner computer software was going to be – effectively removes national boundaries from copyright and makes it quite legal for the U.S.A. to prosecute a violation which occurs in another country. Although, for it to work properly, I think both countries have to be signatories to the Convention and their laws have to recognise its provisions. In this case – i.e. U.S.A. and Australia – both countries are and their laws do. (Well, the U.S.A. is a party to all five, Australia only to four – we have yet to become a party to the “World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty”, abbreviated as the “WIPO Copyright Treaty” or “WCT”.)

    I sympathise with Mr Griffiths, but his extradition is *not* yet another case of arrogant bullying by the U.S.A.

  5. usa sees the virtue of international law about copyright, but can’t see it about murder.

    there is a reason for that.

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