Wikipedia founder starts petition to stop extradition of Richard O'Dwyer

Richard O'Dwyer Mr O'Dwyer could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison if found guilty in the US

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The founder of online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has started a petition seeking to block the extradition of a British student to the US.

Jimmy Wales has shown his support for Sheffield student Richard O'Dwyer, who is contesting extradition to the US to face copyright infringement charges.

Mr O'Dwyer's mother, Julia, said the petition was a "huge boost".

The US authorities say the 24-year-old's TVShack website hosted links to pirated films and TV programmes.

On the petition website, Mr Wales wrote: "Copyright is an important institution, serving a beneficial moral and economic purpose. But that does not mean that copyright can or should be unlimited."

He added: "The internet as a whole must not tolerate censorship in response to mere allegations of copyright infringement. As citizens we must stand up for our rights online.

"Richard O'Dwyer is the human face of the battle between the content industry and the interests of the general public."

'Significant' support

The Home Secretary Theresa May approved Mr O'Dwyer's extradition to the US after a court ruling in January.

Last month Mr O'Dwyer was told that his appeal against the decision, which was due to take place in July at the High Court, would be delayed.

Julia O'Dwyer said: "It is obviously quite significant to have Jimmy Wales's support. He didn't do that lightly. He spent a lot of time talking to Richard.

"It has concentrated efforts to get the message across to the government, because it is in their hands."

Mr O'Dwyer, a Sheffield Hallam University student, previously said he was "surprised" when police officers from the UK and US seized equipment at his home in South Yorkshire in November 2010.

The case was brought by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which claims that the TVShack.net website earned more than $230,000 (£147,000) in advertising revenue before US authorities obtained a warrant and seized the domain name in June 2010.

Ms O'Dwyer, who set up a petition on gopetition.com, has gained more than 23,000 signatures opposing the extradition of her son.

Earlier this year Wikipedia took its English-language site offline as part of protests against proposed anti-piracy laws in the US.

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