Crowdsourced online encyclopedia Wikipedia is to 'blackout' its English language service for 24 hours on Wednesday in protest at proposed internet control laws SOPA and PIPA currently before the American government. The blackout will run from midnight to midnight Eastern Standard Time; from 5am Wednesday to 5am Thursday in the UK.
Describing the protest, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said on Twitter at 6pm UK time Monday that "Final details under consideration but consensus seems to be for "full" rather than "soft" blackout!" Describing the decision as one taken by the Wikipedia community, he said that "I'm proud to be able in some small way to have a leadership role against censorship. But the community gets the credit here".
SOPA and PIPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act and Prevent Internet Piracy Act — are two similar pieces of legislation currently under consideration by the US government, which would have given it wide ranging powers to block US access to websites considered to infringe intellectual property law, including those that don't infringe directly but link to those that are considered to do so.
One of the most controversial proposals is to force the removal of non-US websites from the DNS system if copyright holders claim infringement. The bills, created through heavy lobbying from Hollywood and other content providers, were seen as having unassailable support in the US Congress and Senate, but a crescendo of dissent from technology and online companies about the practicality, efficiency and dangers of the bills has seen DNS provisions being cancelled and the timetables of the bills disrupted, with President Obama's technical advisors coming out against the bills at the weekend — a move widely seen as carrying the threat of a Presidential veto.
However, the bills remain in play.
Other web sites, including Boing Boing and Reddit, have said they will join Wikipedia in this action. According to SOPAStrike, a site set up to list contributing parties, there are 29 confirmed participants at the time of writing.