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Wikipedia to close for 24 hours in SOPA piracy law protest

Wikipedia will be offline for all of Wednesday in protest against SOPA and PIPA, anti-piracy laws being considered in the US.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
2 min read

Wikipedia will be offline for 24 hours on Wednesday to protest against SOPA and PIPA, controversial anti-piracy laws being considered by the US government.

Tomorrow's protest is going ahead to to fight PIPA, and raise awareness among everyday Americans should the beleaguered SOPA return in modified form. 

The Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act give movie studios, record labels and other copyright holders overweaning influence to call for sites they say promote piracy to be shut down.

If they're successful in securing court orders against websites accused of copyright infringement, the proposed laws would force US-based Internet service providers, search engines, payment and advertising companies to stop accessing, linking or doing business with those sites.

The laws have attracted controversy as they give too much leeway to authorities and copyright holders to attack sites they don't like, even outside of the intended use of the legislation to combat piracy.

The legislation is similar to our own Digital Economy Act, a half-baked and unworkable anti-piracy law rushed through the last parliament. 

Happily, SOPA is on the ropes after protest from technology companies such as Google and Mozilla. Supporters such as hosting company GoDaddy have been forced to change their stance after customers deserted in droves in protest. And the White House has now spoken out to criticise the bill, saying the law must "guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses, large and small."

Aggregation site Reddit and group blog Boing Boing will be shuttered on Wednesday alongside Wikipedia's English-language site, but Twitter will continue as normal. Although Twitter refuses to close a global site over what it calls a national issue, protestors point out it's the thin end of the wedge, as legislators around the world consider similar legislation. And anyone outside the US who thinks SOPA won't affect them is kidding themselves, as American companies, culture and influence dominate the Internet.

Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales threatened a blackout after a similar move on the Italian-language version of the site was among the protests that influenced Italy's parliamant to change its mind about an unpopular law.

Amorphous online protest group Anonymous has weighed in to the protest by publically posting personal information about Jeffrey L Bewkes, boss of Time Warner, and Sumner M Redstone, who controls Viacom and the CBS Corporation, which owns CNET UK.

Wikipedia and other participating sites will be blacked out for 24 hours from 5am on Wednesday.