Encyclopedia website Wikipedia will be shutting down for 24 hours starting at midnight ET Tuesday night going into Wednesday (Jan. 18) in order to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA). This act, also known as H.R.3261, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in October by Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas.
The bill seeks to hold sites accountable for any illegal copyright content
uploaded by any user, which would affect sites like YouTube, Facebook
and the like. On the other side of the issue are major companies, like Viacom and Walt Disney, calling internet piracy a form of digital theft.
In protest, several sites, Wikipedia being the largest, are going dark on Jan. 18. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales defends this decision to the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph:
“What I am hoping is that people outside the US who have friends or
family who are voters in the US, will ask them to make a call to their
senator or representative, and I hope we send a broad global message that
the internet as a whole will not tolerate censorship in response to mere
allegations of copyright infringement,” says Wales.
The blackout of Wikipedia, despite SOPA being a U.S.-based law, is going to be global. Wales cites a British user that goes by “The Yeti” as expressing the best reason for why the blackout should be global:
“Although I’m non-US
and live in UK, when I read on the SOPA page ‘The bill would authorize the
U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders against websites outside
U.S. jurisdiction’, this belief that the world’s most powerful nation has
the right to censor anyone on the planet and extend its laws anywhere it
wants just because someone in the US doesn’t like something is more than
worrying. It’s a thin edge of the wedge…One day’s inconvenience is nothing.”
The White House has also come out against certain aspects of the bill. It released a statement Saturday (Jan. 14) that said, among other things,:
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 cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.
Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small.
You can read the full White House statement here.