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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wikipedia goes dark for 24 hours

The online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, one of the Internet’s most popular sites, began a 24-hour “blackout” at midnight Eastern Standard Time. It  is protesting against proposed U.S. anti-piracy legislation that many leading websites say will significantly impede their ability to operate.

Several Internet content providers such as Google, Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Yahoo! and others have publicly come out against the legislation. They say the legislation would turn the Internet into a police state.

Wikipedia’s blackout will last until 12:00 a.m. eastern time on Thursday (5:00 a.m. GMT).

The anti-piracy legislation being protested is known as SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act, which is a piece of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. And a separate companion bill in the U.S. Senate, which is called the Protect Intellectual Property Act or PIPA. These acts target online copyright infringers through a series of harsh penalties.

The National Post’s editorial today has a caution for Canadians:

Canadians should be especially concerned about this, since the legislation treats all dot-com, dot-net and dot-org domains—as well as all North American IP addresses—as “domestic Internet protocol addresses” that would be subject to U.S. law. The bills would employ the same practices used by authoritarian regimes, such as China and Iran, to censor information and quash dissent. Ironically, they would also outlaw the technologies that foreign activists use to evade censorship, including those developed by the U.S. government.

The legislation is receiving strong support from the Motion Picture Association of America, the Business Software Alliance and other industry groups with deep pockets. Opponents, however, believe the U.S. already has copyright legislation on the books in the form of laws which heavily favour the rights of content producers over those of consumers, and that the new laws represent a serious threat to the Internet as we know it.

Politico reports this morning that SOPA is “on life support in the House” and “is now in serious doubt in the Senate.” Let’s hope Politico is right on this one

It’s a bad time for ordinary citizens when big money interests and big government collude to bludgeon them with heavy-handed, over-reaching legislation.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

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