On January 18, 2012 the Wikipedia community has chosen
to blackout the English version of Wikipedia for 24
hours, in protest against proposed legislation in the
United States - the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in
the U.S. House of Representatives, and PROTECTIP
(PIPA) in the U.S. Senate.
During the blackout, the Wikipedia page will only
offer visitors information about the controversial
SOPA and the PIPA proposed anti-piracy legislations.
The information will urge Wikipedia readers to contact
their local congressman to vote against the bills.
Other smaller sites leading the campaign include
Reddit.com and Cheezeburger.
"If passed, this legislation will harm the free and
open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship
of international websites inside the United States,"
the Wikipedia administrators said.
"Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken
about their opposition to this destructive
legislation," said Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia.
"This is an extraordinary action for our community to
take - and while we regret having to prevent the world
from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we
simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA
endanger free speech both in the United States and
abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet
censorship for the world."
The SOPA legislation under consideration in the House
of Representatives aims to crack down on online sales
of pirated American movies, music or other goods by
forcing Internet companies to block access to foreign
sites offering material that violates U.S. copyright
laws. U.S. advertising networks could also be required
to stop online ads, and search engines would be barred
from directly linking to websites found to be
distributing pirated goods.
White House officials raised also concerns
about SOPA saying they believe it could make
businesses on the Internet vulnerable to litigation
and harm legal activity and free speech.
Lawmakers have already been coming around to the realization they would have to hold back on the DNS-blocking provisions.
On Thursday, Senator Patrick Leahy, who is sponsoring the Senate bill, said he planned to propose amending it so that the ramifications of blocking access to a site be studied before implementation.
On Friday, Representative Lamar Smith, who is sponsoring the House bill, said he planned to remove altogether the provision that would require service providers to block access to infringing foreign websites.
The debate seems likely to intensify in the coming weeks.