[ISN] 'Piracy' extradition case rejected
isn at c4i.org
Fri Mar 26 03:27:00 EST 2004
MARCH 25, 2004
A MAGISTRATE has rejected an application to extradite an Australian
man US authorities alleged headed an internet piracy syndicate.
Hew Raymond Griffiths, 41, of Berkeley Vale on the NSW Central Coast,
was indicted by a grand jury in the state of Virginia last year with
one count of criminal copyright infringement and one count of
conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.
The US indictment alleged he was a member and later the leader of
Drink or Die, a high-profile piracy ring founded in Russia in the
1990s, and later headquartered in the US.
The indictment alleged Mr Griffiths controlled access to a drop site
for pirated software at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
It was alleged the drop site often received software weeks ahead of a
publishers' official release, and group members then cracked the
copyright protection, testing the software and packing it.
Downing Centre Local Court Magistrate Daniel Reiss said he was not
persuaded that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions,
acting on behalf of US authorities, had made out a case for
He highlighted the unusual nature of the matter, including that the
offences were alleged to have occurred in Australia, and that Mr
Griffiths - who had never travelled to the US - had "never been a
fugitive fleeing or hiding from the extradition country".
In his judgement, he said the case highlighted the need for Parliament
to update extradition laws to take account of new technologies.
"It appears that it would be timely for the parliament to give
consideration to addressing the difficulties that have arisen over a
number of years in respect to the scope and application (of the
laws)," he said.
"It also may be timely to give consideration to amending the Act to
include provisions ... that can deal with the kind of factual
circumstances that prevailed in respect to this application."
Outside the court Mr Griffiths' Legal Aid Commission solicitor Antony
Townsden said his client was relieved at the decision in what he
described as an "outrageous" case.
"A number of persons were charged in the UK and the US, but the only
person where extradition was sought was Mr Griffiths," he said. "He is
a person of no means whatsoever, and it was never suggested that he
had gained anything of a material nature."
"It would have been an impossible task for him to represent himself in
the US, where he would have had no ties and no support in what would
have been an extremely complex matter.
"One would have thought it should have been tried in his own country."
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