The founder of the popular crowd-sourced online encyclopedia Wikipedia urged U.K. authorities on Monday to block the extradition of a 24-year-old British student wanted in the United States over alleged copyright offences.

Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales expressed support for Richard O'Dwyer, who was arrested at his university dormitory in 2010 by British officers accompanied by agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

O'Dwyer's alleged crime was running a file-swapping website called TVShack.net, a search-engine-like website that compiled links to downloadable movie and television show files, many of them protected by copyright.

U.S. authorities allege that O'Dwyer made more than $200,000 from advertising displayed on the website over three years.

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Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales says O'Dwyer's case symbolizes the battle between the content industry and the interests of the general public. (Lai Seng Sin/Associated Press)

O'Dwyer's supporters argue that TV Shack and other sites like it merely post links to shared content and don't actually host copyrighted video files and that posting links is not a crime.

Wales urged citizens to support O'Dwyer and stand up for their rights online by signing an online petition posted on Change.org.

"Richard O'Dwyer is the human face of the battle between the content industry and the interests of the general public," Wales said in the petition, adding that the student had always done his best to "play by the rules."

By midday Monday, the petition to halt O'Dwyer's extradition had more than 20,400 signatures.

The Guardian newspaper has thrown its support behind O'Dwyer as well, saying in an editorial published Monday that his case was "unfair" and "absurd."