The alleged ringleader of a gang of Internet copyright pirates was back in jail last night after US authorities won the latest round in their battle to extradite him from Australia on multi-million dollar software piracy charges.
Hew Raymond Griffiths, 41, of Bateau Bay, New South Wales, returned to Silverwater jail after judge Peter Jacobson ruled magistrate Daniel Reiss was wrong to release him on bail in March. He said that Reiss's reasoning was incorrect in concluding that no extraditable offence had been committed. The judgment is a setback for defence efforts to have Griffiths tried in Australia, but it does not mark a definitive ruling.
Griffiths will be back before magistrate Reiss within days. In the mean time, he will await his fate at Silverwood jail, where he spent two months on remand fighting extradition.
US investigators says that Griffiths rose through the ranks to become leader of the infamous DrinkorDie piracy group, which released a pirated copy of Windows 95, days before its official release and has been getting up to similar antics with pirated games, music and movies ever since. In March 2003 he was indicted on one count of criminal copyright infringement and one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement in his absence by a Virginia grand jury If convicted in the US, Griffiths could go to jail for up to 10 years and be fined up to $500,000. Under Australian copyright laws, he would face a maximum sentence of only five years. Eleven DrinkOrDie members have already been convicted in the US.
Unemployed Griffiths is not accused of profiting financially from his alleged piracy, despite estimates that DrinkOrDie's copyright infringement cost publishers an estimated $50m. His case is the the first time that extradition from Australia has been sought for copyright offences.
Griffiths' lawyer, Antony Townsden, questioned the need for expensive and time-consuming extradition proceedings. He said: "A number of people have been charged under British law and have been dealt with in their own country, and Griffiths is the only one where extradition was sought. One has to ask whether we have abrogated our own responsibilities to properly deal with Griffiths under Australian law." ®
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