Wikipedia and others go dark to protest SOPA
Wikipedia and others want to stop a Congressional vote on SOPA legislation. Image: justgrimes/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Wikipedia, the the sixth most visited website on the Worldwide Web, said that it will go dark on Wednesday to protest legislation being proposed in Congress and in the Senate. That legislation, says Wikipedia and other Internet giants, would stifle free expression and unfairly kill websites.

A message from Jimmy Wales

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales tweeted on Martin Luther King Day that the site’s English version would be dark from Midnight Tuesday, EST, until Wednesday at midnight.

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed, MLK on Wednesday, Wikipedia demands.”

Wales also warned students to anticipate and to do their homework early.

The SOPA Strike

Wikipedia and dozens of other Internet companies — including Reddit, Boing Boing and the Cheezburger Network — will join in solidarity Wednesday for what has been dubbed the SOPA Strike. Internet giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, while not participating in the action directly, have verbally protested the legislation.

The move is to protest a vote on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in Congress and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate. The two acts are intended to protect the entertainment industry by eliminating illegal copying and sharing of movies, video media and music on the Internet. But the strikers say it does so with a sledgehammer.

Language too broad

Opponents say the legislation is designed to protect the interests of the entertainment industry, but it puts the burden of policing sites onto IPs. The broad language of the bills, some contend, would allow media companies to have a website blocked or shut down without due process.

Finally, opponents contend, the legislation would lead to widespread censorship and the stifling of free expression.

Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing said:

“If you want an Internet where human rights, free speech and the rule of law are not subordinated to the entertainment industry’s profits, I hope you’ll join us.”

MPAA calls effort a distraction

One of the chief supporters of the legislation, the Motion Picture Association of America, claimed that the legislation’s opponents are only interested in drawing attention away from the problem of online piracy.

Michael O’Leary of the MPAA said:

“Our perspective on this, from a larger perspective, is that it’s part and parcel of a campaign to distract from the real issue here and to draw people away from trying to resolve what is a real problem, which is that foreigners continue to steal the hard work of Americans.”

White House speaks out against bills

The Obama administration said in a statement over the weekend that it would not support certain parts of the proposed legislation.

“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cyber security risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

SOPA sponsors attempt compromise

After the White House announcement, some of the language of the bills was softened. The Congressional sponsors of SOPA have agreed to drop the provision that would allow companies to block a website’s entire domain name.


Washington Post
Los Angeles Times

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