|Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, calls the legislation ‘dangerous for an open internet’ [EPA]|
Wikipedia, the popular community-edited online encyclopaedia, will black out its English-language site for 24 hours to seek support against proposed US anti-piracy legislation that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said threatens the future of the internet.
The service will be the highest profile name to join a growing campaign starting at 05:00 GMT on Wednesday that will see it black out its page so that visitors will only see information about the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).
The information will urge Wikipedia readers in the US to contact their local congressman to vote against the bills.
“This is a quite clumsily drafted legislation which is dangerous for an open internet,” Wales said.
Other smaller sites leading the campaign include Reddit.com and Ben Huh, the founder of Cheezburger network, said on his Twitter feed that his 58 sites will observe a blackout on Wednesday..
The decision to black out the site was decided by voting within the Wikipedia community of writers and editors who manage the free service, Wales said. The English-language Wikipedia receives more than 25 million average daily visitors from around the world, according to comScore data.
The bills pit technology companies like Google and Facebook against the bill’s supporters, including Hollywood studios and music labels, which say the legislation is needed to protect intellectual property and jobs.
The SOPA legislation under consideration in the House of Representatives aims to crack down on online sales of pirated American movies, music or other goods by forcing internet companies to block access to foreign sites offering material that violates US copyright laws.
Supporters argue the bill is unlikely to have an impact on US-based websites.
US advertising networks could also be required to stop online ads, and search engines would be barred from directly
linking to websites found to be distributing pirated goods.
Google plans to use its much-visited US home page to draw attention to the bills on Wednesday. The company has repeatedly said the bill goes too far and could hurt investment. Along with other internet companies, it has run advertisements in major newspapers urging Washington legislators to rethink their approach.
The founders of Google, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yahoo! and other internet giants said in an open letter last month the legislation would give the US government “the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran”.
“So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery“
– Rupert Murdoch
White House officials raised concerns on Saturday about SOPA saying they believe it could make businesses on the internet vulnerable to litigation and harm legal activity and free speech.
“We’re happy to see opposition is building and that the White House has started to pay attention,” Wales said.
News of the White House’s comments prompted Rupert Murdoch, News Corp chief executive and a prominent supporter of the bill, to criticise the administration of President Barack Obama.
“So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain
thievery,” he posted on his personal Twitter account on Saturday.
News Corp owns a vast array of media properties from Fox TV, the Wall Street Journal to Twentieth Century Fox studios.
Wales said the bill in its current form was too broad and could make it difficult for a site like Wikipedia, which he said relies on open exchange of information.
He said the bill also places the burden of proof on the distributor of content in the case of any dispute over copyright ownership.
“I do think copyright holders have legitimate issues, but there are ways of approaching the issue that don’t involve
censorship,” Wales said.
What do you think of the proposed legislation? Send your feedback on Twitter to @AJELive