Wikipedia users be forewarned: Beginning on Wednesday, January 18, Wikipedia’s English-language version will be shutting down services for 24 hours to protest the proposed U.S. House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation. In place of its usual English-Language content on Wednesday, Wikipedia will instead post contact information for U.S. Congress representatives to encourage the public to voice its opposition to the SOPA legislation, which Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales hopes will “melt phone systems in Washington” as a result of anticipated users’ protests to Congress. Wikipedia will remain up in non-English versions of the site during this blackout.
SOPA’s intent is to prevent online piracy and copyright and trade infringement (the text of the House bill can be found online), but opponents fear that the current language is too vague and will lend itself to censorship, therefore restricting access to valid information (such as that found in foreign library repositories and research). Sites found to be linking to offending content could be blocked from U.S. users, as could links sent or received in emails, social networking sites, and more. Read more about the ramifications of this legislation in Eric Hellman’s Go to Hellman blog entry “Foreign Libraries Will be Infringing Sites under SOPA.”
In concert with Wikipedia’s blackout in protest of the legislation, other sites such as WordPress (on which this blog is posted), Reddit, Mozilla, and all Cheezburger properties will also black out their sites as well during this 24-hour period.
According to Drew Olanoff’s January 16, 2012, entry on the blog Insider, SOPA “endangers the future of sites like these by holding them directly accountable for content placed on them. It has been widely reported that if an act like this passed through and became actionable, many Internet businesses would suffer greatly due to new scrutiny placed on them by the government.”
This and other Internet legislation now before Congress will continue to make news; watch this blog (after the blackout!) for future developments.