31/01/2012 05:23 GMT | Updated 31/01/2012 07:09 GMT

Richard O'Dwyer Extradition Case 'Most Asked Question' Of Barack Obama

Barack Obama has been quizzed by Americans over the United States' decision to seek the extradition of a British student for copyright infringement.

Richard O'Dwyer, 23, is wanted over the TVShack website he created which enabled users to watch films and television shows for free.

His case topped of a list of subjects that American voters put to their president during an online question-and-answer session last night run by Google.

The question was submitted by Michael Mozart of Connecticut. He asked: "Why are you personally supporting the extradition of UK citizen Richard O'Dwyer for solely linking to copyright infringing works using an extradition treaty designed to combat terrorism and bring terrorists to judgement in the USA?"

Obama told him that he was "not personally doing anything" as the president did not get involved in such decisions.

"One of the ways our system works is the president doesn't get involved in prosecution decisions and extradition decisions and this has been a decision by the justice department," he said.

"Broadly, we want to make sure intellectual property is protected we want to make sure that the creative works of people in this country aren't expropriated, but we want to do it in a way that is consistent with internet freedom."

Earlier this month a UK court ruled the Sheffield Hallam student could be extradited to the US where he faces jail if convicted.

His legal team have argued that O'Dwyer's website was no different to search engines such as Google, as it merely pointed to copyrighted material rather than hosting it itself.

O’Dwyer's mother, Julia, told the Daily Mail that the UK government’s "passive acceptance of disproportionate extradition" was shameful.

"Now even Americans have woken up to the US administration’s excessive use of the extradition laws between our countries," she said.

"Given our government won’t protect its own citizens, it’s up to Obama to put a stop to the ridiculous and appallingly harsh attempts to extradite Richard, and others facing similarly unnecessary treatment."

The O'Dwyer case mirrors that of Gary McKinnon, the Briton accused by the US authorities of hacking into Pentagon computers in 2002.

American officials have demanded that he is tried in the US despite expert opinions obtained by McKinnon's legal team warning that his mental condition could lead him to commit suicide.

In December MPs demanded the government amended the UK-US extradition treaty amid fears it was unfair on British citizens, an accusation the American government has refuted.