Wikipedia blackout against anti-piracy laws

Wikipedia has confirmed that it will perform a 24-hour blackout of its English-language site from 05:00 GMT on 18 January to protest against proposed controversial U.S. anti-piracy laws.

The online encyclopaedia joins a number of high-profile Internet companies protesting against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), both of which were proposed in the U.S. last year. The former is currently in the House of Representatives and the latter in the Senate.

"If passed, [they] would seriously damage the free and open Internet, including Wikipedia," said Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, in a statement.

During the blackout articles relating to SOPA and PIPA will still be available through Wikipedia. The rest of Wikipedia's English-language site will be inaccessible globally. Sister projects, such as the German and Italian Wikipedias, intend to indicate their support of the protest with banners.

"This will be the first time the English Wikipedia has ever staged a public protest of this nature, and it's a decision that wasn't lightly made." Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement to the Wikipedia community.

"In making this decision, Wikipedians will be criticized for seeming to abandon neutrality to take a political position," she said. "But although Wikipedia's articles are neutral, its existence is not."

The aim of SOPA and PIPA is to block access to copyright-infringing Websites by denying access to them via search engines or DNS servers in an effort to curb piracy and protect content creators' revenues.

"We depend on a legal infrastructure that makes it possible for us to operate. And we depend on a legal infrastructure that also allows other sites to host user-contributed material, both information and expression," Gardner quoted Kat Walsh, board member for the Wikipedia Foundation, as saying. "Where [knowledge] can be censored without due process, it hurts the speaker, the public, and Wikimedia."

Gardner defended the company's decision to take global action, rather than restricting its protest to the U.S., where the impact of the legislation will be felt.

"SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem. All around the world, we're seeing the
development of legislation intended to fight online piracy, and regulate the Internet in other ways, that hurt online freedoms," she said. "We want the Internet to remain free and open, everywhere, for everyone."

The blackout will coincide with other protests on 18 January by news recommendation site, Reddit, meme culture Websites, The Cheezburger Network, and game developer Mojang.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said previously that he is in full support of the protests, but would allow the community to decide what action to take.

Meanwhile, supporters of the SOPA and PIPA bills include Disney, Warner Brothers, and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).


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23 April 2024

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