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Comment by Napoleon Bonaparte on January 24, 2012 at 4:47pm
Comment by Napoleon Bonaparte on January 18, 2012 at 12:24am

Websites 'blackout' over anti-piracy bill

Online encyclopaedia Wikipedia joins other sites in temporary shutdown in opposition to proposed US anti-piracy laws.

Major websites around the world are protesting against legislation in the US Congress intended to crack down on online piracy by temporarily blacking out their sites.

Wikipedia, the popular community-edited online encyclopaedia, blacked out its English-language site on Wednesday to seek support against the proposed bills which Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said threatens the future of the internet.

During the 24-hour blackout, visitors can only see a black-and-white page saying, "Imagine a world without free knowledge" with a link to information about the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

The site urges 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.

Ben Huh, the founder of Cheezburger network, said on his Twitter feed that his 58 sites would observe a blackout on Wednesday.

Search engine Google added a link to a petition against the bills on its site, reading "Tell Congress: Please don't censor the web!".

Social media site reddit said it would shut down for 12 hours starting at 13:00 GMT on Wednesday.

"The freedom, innovation, and economic opportunity that the internet enables is in jeopardy," the company said.

The decision to black out Wikipedia was decided by voting within the site's 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.

'Protecting jobs'

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 proposed SOPA legislation aims to crack down on online sales of pirated US movies, music or other goods by forcing internet companies to block access to foreign sites offering material that violates US copyright laws.

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.

However, supporters argue the bill is unlikely to have an impact on US-based websites.

Google 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".

"We oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the internet," a Google spokesman said on Tuesday.

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.

"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," the White House said.

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