Wikipedia is blacked out in English on Wednesday in protest of anti-piracy legislation proposed by the U.S. Congress.
The online encyclopedia site, along with hundreds of other sites including Los Angeles-based Boing Boing, Mozilla, WordPress, Reddit and TwitPic, plan to go dark Wednesday in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act.
They say the legislation, intended to crack down on online movie theft and music piracy, infringes on the “free and open Internet” and will introduce Internet censorship laws of other foreign countries.
"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed, MLK. On Wednesday, Wikipedia demands," Wales said via Twitter on Monday, the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
However, not all websites are protesting the antipiracy act.
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo called Wikipedia’s blackout “silly” and “foolish.”
According to supporters of the legislation, including The Motion Picture Assn. Of America, the law makes an effort in protecting intellectual property.
Michael O’Leary, the executive leading the MPAA’s campaign for the bills, told the Los Angeles Times, the bills make an effort to preserve creative content, something, he says, websites have failed to do.
Aol, which owns Patch, partnered with several Internet and technology companies, including Ebay, Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Yahoo and Zynga, to voice concerns and opposition to both Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act. Here is an excerpt from the joint statement:
“We support the bills’ stated goals—providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign “rogue” websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting. Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new and uncertain liabilities, private rights of the action, and technology mandates that would require monitoring of websites.”
Internet operators Google Inc. and eBay Inc. have also opposed the legislation, saying companies could block websites and endanger the freedom of the Web.
To publicize opposition, Google will post a link on its homepage protesting the anti-piracy legislation, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
The Obama administration has also called for changes in the legislation. In a White House statement, it indicated it “will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”
The campaign against SOPA appears to be gaining steam, and with the White House’s declaration it would oppose the bill, SOPA appears dead on arrival.
Still, SOPA could make a resurgence if bill supporters rewrite the bill to the White House’s unspecified suggested changes.
Wikipedia encourages its users to visit the blacked out site and find out how to contact government officials with opinions about the legislation.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) announced on Tuesday that he expects the Committee to continue its markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act in February, according to a news release on the House Judiciary Committe website.
"To enact legislation that protects consumers, businesses and jobs from foreign thieves who steal America's intellectual property, we will continue to bring together industry representatives and Members to find ways to combat online piracy," Smith said.
Republican and Democratics will be on vacation during the next two weeks and the markup of SOPA is expected to start in February, Smith said.
“I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to send a bipartisan bill to the White House that saves American jobs and protects intellectual property," Smith said.
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) who represents the 29th District, released a prepared statement for Patch.
"I believe we can strike a balance that preserves the open nature of the Internet while protecting the rights and livelihood of the creators of Intellectual Property, many of whom live and work here in the greater Los Angeles area. I am committed to working with my colleagues, the Administration and a range of stakeholders to ensure that the freedom of expression that is so important to the success of the online world is maintained, and at the same time, not used as an excuse to steal another’s work," Schiff said.
"SOPA’s chief sponsor has indicated that he is dropping Domain Name System blocking from the bill. I expect that further modifications will be made in the coming days and weeks," Schiff said.
"But ultimately, this is about protecting American jobs and competitiveness as well as freedom," Schiff said. "The American entertainment industry is one of the bright spots of our economy – employing tens of thousands, pumping many millions of dollars into our local economy, and contributing to the way of life that we treasure here in Southern California. The entertainment industry is also one of the few areas in which the United States has a positive balance of trade with the rest of the world. Even as I zealously guard our civil liberties, I am equally determined to safeguard my constituents jobs and their right to enjoy the fruits of their own labors."