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Jimmy Wales launches campaign to stop O'Dwyer's extradition

The Wikipedia founder calls the 24-year-old U.K. student the "human face" of the global battle over antipiracy efforts.

British student Richard O'Dwyer. Change.org

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has launched an online petition to stop the extradition of a 24-year-old British student to the U.S. for alleged criminal copyright violations.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been attempting to extradite Richard O'Dwyer to face criminal copyright charges for allegedly linking to copies of copyrighted films through TVShack.net, a crowd-sourced site that has been seized by the Department of Homeland Security. O'Dwyer faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

In an article penned for The Guardian, Wales called O'Dwyer the "human face" a global battle between movie and TV industry interests and media consumers, which was highlighted by the recent backlash against proposed copyright legislation SOPA and Protect IP. The bills would have allowed the Justice Department to obtain an order to be served on search engines, Internet service providers, and other companies, forcing them to make a suspected piratical Web site effectively vanish.

"When I met Richard, he struck me as a clean-cut, geeky kid. Still a university student, he is precisely the kind of person we can imagine launching the next big thing on the Internet," he said. "Given the thin case against him, it is an outrage that he is being extradited to the US to face felony charges for something that he is not being prosecuted for here. No U.S. citizen has ever been brought to the U.K. for alleged criminal activity that took place on U.S. soil."

Wales' petition, launched on international campaigning Web site Change.org, calls on U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May to use powers to prevent the extradition. Under U.K. law, the home secretary must grant permission for an extradition to proceed.

Wales has been a very vocal opponent of the controversial antipiracy bills. In January, he shut down his online encyclopedia, joining a host of other sites in a daylong Internet blackout to protest the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts.