Wikipedia will be joining the blackout planned for Wednesday to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), the two Congressional anti-piracy bills that are widely opposed by the tech community. Last week Reddit announced that it will be going dark from 8am till 8pm on Wednesday, January 18th, the day that House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had called a hearing about SOPA. But, as of Saturday morning, Issa said that SOPA will be shelved and not voted on until “consensus” can be built. On Thursday, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the sponsor of PIPA, said he was open to changes about the DNS-blocking provision in the bill, another sign of politicians’ growing awareness of the extent of opposition to both bills.
Both SOPA and PIPA aim to curtail online piracy by giving the Department of Justice new powers to shut down sites that offer access to copyright materials including music, movies and TV shows. The tech community, including the likes of Google and Facebook, has strongly opposed both bills, contending that, while it is certainly necessary to fight online piracy, the two pieces of legislation currently being considered in Congress are flawed and, if passed, will stifle the freedom of expression and innovation that make the Internet what it is. The Obama administration has also expressed its concerns about how SOPA and PIPA could “[disrupt] the underlying architecture of the Internet.”
On Monday, Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, wrote on Twitter:
“Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday!”
Wikipedia will go dark from midnight Tuesday till midnight Wednesday (eastern time), an unprecedented event; the Italian-version of Wikipedia had staged a blackout in October in response to an anti-piracy bill proposed by the Italian Parliament. Only the English-language version of Wikipedia will be affected by Wednesday’s blackout.
As Wales said in a phone interview with the New York Times:
“What will make a difference is for ordinary people to pick up the phone and send an email or a letter to their representatives about this. When you consider the magnitude of how many people use Wikipedia globally, there is a potential here for really creating some noise and getting some attention in the U.S.”
Mr. Wales said that if passed, the bills could censor what information and links that sites like Wikipedia would be permitted to publish.
“The government could tell us that we could write a entry about the history of the Pirate Bay but not allow to link to it. That’s a First Amendment issue.”
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