Knuckling Under, Down Under:

According to an article in Australia's 'The Age,' Hew Griffiths, a 44-year-old Australian, has been extradited to the U.S. to face criminal copyright charges. Griffiths was the leader of a group named "Drink Or Die," which (again, according to the article) "cracked copy-protected software and media products and distributed them free of cost."

It is, if I am not mistaken, the first time that a foreign national has been extradited to the United States to face copyright charges, and it is, according to the article, the first time that Australia has permitted extradition of anyone facing such charges.

What's interesting about it is this: it is black-letter law that the U.S. Copyright Act does not have "extra-territorial effect." It grants certain exclusive rights (to reproduce, to distribute, etc.) to the copyright-holder, but those rights -- at least as I (and all of the cases that I am aware of) have always understood the matter -- stop at the US border. US copyright law does not, in other words, prohibit anyone from, say, taking a copy of Eminem's last CD to Brazil and reproducing it and/or redistributing it and/or performing it in Brazil, because US copyright law does not grant Eminem (or whomever the copyright holder might be) the exclusive right to reproduce or redistribute the work in Brazil (or in China, or Australia, etc.). Brazilian copyright law, of course, may do so (and almost surely does do so, given that Brazil is a member of the Berne Copyright Convention and a signatory to the GATT, both of which require it to grant Eminem those rights under its local law).

The ordinary course of action, then, would be to request that Australian authorities take action against Mr. Griffiths for his violation of Australian copyright law in the circumstance described. But that's not what happened -- in fact, apparently Griffiths agreed to plead guilty to violating Australian law, but the prosecutors refused that request and went ahead and processed the extradition request.

So I'm at a bit of a loss to know what happens to Mr. Griffiths when he comes before the court in Virginia (where he's now being held). What's going to be the charge? If his actions took place exclusively in Australia (as they apparently did), where's the violation of US law?