Who, besides Wikipedia, is going dark and why

Summary:UPDATED: On January 18th, Wikipedia, Reddit, Imgur and numerous other Web sites will be going dark in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Others, like Google, will be protesting in other ways. Here's who's shutting down and why.

Except to see this page, from ProtestSOPA.org, and others like it a lot tomorrow as major Web sites

Expect to see this page, from ProtestSOPA.org, and others like it a lot tomorrow as major Web sites protest against SOPA & PIPA.

There is nothing wrong with your Internet. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. The reason you won't be able to use Wikipedia, Reddit, or numerous other Web sites on January 18th is that these Web sites have decided to protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA).

Here's my current list of the most important sites that will be going dark or limiting their operations in protest of SOPA/PIPA.

Boing Boing the popular science-fiction and geek news site will be going dark on January 18th. As Cory Doctrow, science-fiction writer and editor of the site, explains, "Boing Boing could never co-exist with a SOPA world: we could not ever link to another website unless we were sure that no links to anything that infringes copyright appeared on that site. So in order to link to a URL on LiveJournal or WordPress or Twitter or Blogspot, we'd have to first confirm that no one had ever made an infringing link, anywhere on that site. Making one link would require checking millions (even tens of millions) of pages, just to be sure that we weren't in some way impinging on the ability of five Hollywood studios, four multinational record labels, and six global publishers to maximize their profits."

Imgur, a popular image-sharing site, will be "blacking out the Imgur gallery on January 18th from 8am-8pm EST and replacing it with a message about how the PIPA/SOPA legislation threatens sites like Imgur with methods to take action."

Google won't be going dark, but "Tomorrow we will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our U.S. home page." In the event, Google's "Doodled" search page now has a black box over the Google logo.

Google's Blackout Page

Google's blackout page.

Off a link from that page, Google urges to sign a petition to Congress to vote no on both SOPA and PIPA.

MoveOn, the liberal political activism site, will be going dark according to Justin Ruben, its Executive Director because "Congress is playing fast and loose with Internet censorship legislation that would have people like Justin Bieber thrown in jail for uploading a video to YouTube. The Internet censorship legislation could severely restrict free speech, and put a stranglehold on one of the most innovative, job-creating industries of our time."

Mozilla, makers of the popular Firefox Web browser, has also done dark. In a statement, Mozilla chairwoman Mitchell Baker, explained the decision saying, "SOPA makes all of us potential criminals if we don’t become the enforcement arm of a new government regulatory and policing structure. SOPA does not target websites serving up unauthorized content. SOPA does not target people accessing those websites. SOPA targets all the rest of us. These costs are significant, wide-ranging and long lasting." She then uses the analogy of corner store in your neighborhood that rents movies. But the movie industry believes that some or even all of the videos in that store are unauthorized copies, so that they’re not being paid when people watch their movies. ... SOPA/PIPA don’t aim at the people trying to get to the store. SOPA/ PIPA don’t penalize or regulate the store itself. SOPA and PIPA penalize us if we don’t block the people trying to get to the store." If that sounds both unfair and technically next to impossible, your're right, and that's Baker's point.

Reddit, the popular link-sharing and social network which had a leading role in making the public aware of SOPA's dangers, will be blacking outs its site on January 18th from 8am-8pm EST (1300-0100 UTC).

Tucows, a popular freeware and shareware file download site, will be blacking out the Tucows Software Download site on January 18th from 8am to 8pm EST (1300-0100 UTC).

Wikipedia will blackout "the English version of Wikipedia for 24 hours." The blackout will start at 05:00 UTC (midnight EST) on January 18, 2012. During this period, Wikipedia will try to keep articles about SOPA and PIPA accessible.

WordPress.org the blog site that hosts WordPress software, and WordPress.com,, the site that holds many WordPress-powered blogs, have both gone dark If you want to take your WordPress-powered site off-the-air in protest, there are WordPress plugins for you to do that.

For more information on who else is "striking" against SOPA and PIPA the SOPAStrike site is useful. It also has good links on how to black out your own Web site.

Black Wednesday: The Day the Web went dark (Screenshot Gallery)

Why are these sites doing this? Because SOPA and PIPA are bad laws. If enacted, a copyright holder could, legally have foreign Web sites shut down by simply accusing them of violating their copyright. These sites would then, from an American perspective, simply vanish. How broad is this? According to Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor and author id American Constitutional Law, SOPA is unconstitutional because, "an entire Web site containing tens of thousands of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement."

Tribe also states that it SOPA violates the First Amendment because "it delegates to a private party the power to suppress speech without prior notice and a judicial hearing. This provision of the bill would give complaining parties the power to stop online advertisers and credit card processors from doing business with a website, merely by filing a unilateral notice accusing the site of being 'dedicated to theft of U.S. property'- -even if no court has actually found any infringement."

If SOPA, or its Senate twin-brother, PIPA, were made law, it would also require ISPs to monitor customers' traffic and block Web sites suspected of copyright infringement.

Therefore, Tribe concludes, "Although the problems of online copyright and trademark infringement are genuine, SOPA is an extreme measure that is not narrowly tailored to governmental interests. It is a blunderbuss rather than a properly limited response, and its stiff penalties would significantly endanger legitimate websites and services. Its constitutional defects are not marginal ones that could readily be trimmed in the process of applying and enforcing it in particular cases. Rather, its very existence would dramatically chill protected speech by undermining the openness and free exchange of information at the heart of the Internet. It should not be enacted by Congress."

Besides simply shutting down Web sites on demand, SOPA would, as Reddit put it in its Blackout Special Edition (PDF Link) "Under SOPA, you could get 5 years for uploading a Michael Jackson song, one year more than the doctor who killed him."

But, those of you who've been following the issue, hasn't SOPA been stopped? Yes, SOPA appears to be dead in the water in the House. But, acts can reappear in the House and PIPA is alive and well in the Senate. As Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder and leader tweeted, "Rumors of the death of SOPA may be premature. But Senate version going strong.

What all these sites want is for you to wake up and realize just how deadly SOPA and PIPA would be both to the Web and your own freedom of speech. They want you to contact your Congressional representatives and let them know that you oppose these, and similar, bills. If you don't, and these or similar laws pass, you can look forward to a time when many of the sites you use today are censored and permanently blacked out.

So what do you do in the meantime if your homework is due Right Now? Well, there's always your local library or the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Related Stories:

Google to protest SOPA, alongside Wikipedia, Reddit, others

5 reasons why SOPA, PROTECT-IP and other legislative idiocy will never die

Wikipedia confirms site blackout to protest SOPA anti-piracy bill

SOPA Derailed

Reddit's anti-SOPA "Nuclear" protest is a good start

Topics: Browser, Collaboration, Software Development

About

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, aka sjvn, has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the cutting edge, PC operating system; 300bps was a fast Internet connection; WordStar was the state of the art word processor; and we liked it.His work has been published in everything from highly technical publications... Full Bio

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