TVShack founder Richard O'Dwyer stands with his mother Julia (Reuters)
TVShack founder Richard O'Dwyer with his mother Julia (Reuters)

Home Secretary Theresa May has authorised the extradition of TVShack founder Richard O'Dwyer to the US to face trial over copyright infringement charges.

Sheffield Hallam student O'Dwyer, 23, set up the TVShack website, which American authorities claim hosted links to pirated copyrighted films and television programmes, but did not host the material on the site.

May signed the extradition order after a British judge ruled that the allegations justified a trial in the US despite not breaking any laws in the UK.

In the initial court hearing his lawyers argued that by linking to other websites, TVShack was merely offering the same as Google and Yahoo.

O'Dwyer's mother, Julia, said her son was being "sold down the river" by the British government and that he should face trial in his own country rather than abroad. A petition against his extradition has attracted 20,000 signatures.

O'Dwyer could spend up to 10 years in prison. The case was brought by the US immigration and customs enforcement agency, which claims that earned more than $230,000 (£147,000) in advertising revenue before the site was seized in June 2010.

The case follows the high-profile cases of Christopher Tappin, 65, who was extradited to the US in February to face arms dealing charges and Asperger's syndrome sufferer Gary McKinnon, who is still waiting for May's final decision 10 years after the US first asked for him to be extradited over charges he allegedly hacked into military computers in 2002.

The extradition laws agreed with the US were created in the wake of 9/11. A UK citizen can be extradited to the US without probable cause, but not the other way round, leading campaigners to demand a level playing field.

"Richard's life - his studies, work opportunities, financial security - is being disrupted because the UK government has not introduced the much-needed changes to extradition law," O'Dwyer's mother said.