Wikipedia blackout protest against SOPA

Site goes dark for 24 hours in protest at legislation, blacks out logo
Darren Allan

January 18, 2012

Protests against SOPA (America’s Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (the Protect Intellectual Property Act) have kicked up a gear today. (not the UK version of the site, though) has blacked out its logo and provided a link to an anti-SOPA online petition on its front page.

And Wikipedia has gone a step further, bringing down a total blackout on its site today.

Should you visit the font of contributor provided internet wisdom to look up something, you’ll find that’s not possible for the next 24 hours. There’s a stark black holding page presented to you instead.

This is entitled “Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge”, referring to the fact that the SOPA and PIPA legislation will result in curtailed net freedoms.

The site comments underneath: “For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.”

SOPA is being pushed by the music and film industries (and software) as a way of protecting their copyrighted material and maintaining employment levels in said sectors.

However, the legislation is badly organised and proposes some overreaching powers which will have a number of negative effects on the internet globally, and free speech on the web.

With critics arguing that it won’t successfully protect movie and music IP anyway.

SOPA puts the emphasis on website owners policing their own user contributed content and links, at great cost, with blocking measures to be put in place on sites which fail to meet these requirements – including foreign, not just US websites.

Wikipedia notes smaller sites won’t be able to defend themselves and will be driven out of business. Internet start-ups will also be affected, with venture capitalists noting they’d be far less likely to invest, thus web entrepreneurs could become a much rarer breed.

Which obviously won’t help our currently ailing global financial situation, given that the digital economy is very much a big part of our future.

A fact the film industry would do well to realise, and begin positive moves to try and provide more online content – new distribution models and methods – rather than looking backwards and trying to fight a fire which realistically can’t be extinguished anyway.

The Obama administration has actually spoken out against SOPA in its current form, particularly the DNS blocking provision, which has effectively killed that side of the legislation off.

However, Wikipedia notes that the bill is still very much alive and due to be brought back up for debate next month, and even without the DNS measures it’s still a very dangerous and loosely targeted piece of work.

Many other high profile sites such as Twitter and Yahoo have raised their voices against the legislation, but haven’t taken any concrete action today with Google and Wikipedia.


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