Community-driven online encyclopedia Wikipedia has announced plans to “go dark” this Wednesday, January 18, to protest controversial congressional bills SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act).
The outage, planned only for English-language versions of site, will last for 24 hours beginning at 05:00 UTC (that’s midnight for East Coast and 9:00 PM for the West Coast).
The planned outage has Wikipedia joining many other online sites and organizations in their public opposition to the pending congressional bills, which are designed to fight online piracy of copyrighted material.
Both bills, however, backed by the film and music industries, have received considerable criticism for their overreaching and onerous provisions that would place a substantial burden upon sites that aggregate online content as well as impose censorship on search providers, all without judicial intervention.
“If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States,” Sue Gardner of the Wikimedia Foundation said in the statement announcing the protest.
Following the White House’s refusal this past weekend to support SOPA, it appears that the House bill is effectively dead at this point. However, its Senate sibling, PIPA, remains in play and Wikipedia’s protest hopes to draw the attention of the mainstream public to the debate, which has mostly be restricted to the tech industry up until now. According to Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, the English-language versions of Wikipedia attract 25 million visitors per day. With numbers like that, Wikipedia’s protest will surely draw attention.
Let’s just hope, as David Pogue suggests, that everyone gets their homework done early.