Wikipedia, Others Shut Down to Protest Anti-Piracy Bills

“Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge.”

That is what Wikipedia says is at stake in an intense debate over anti-piracy legislation that has prompted the online encyclopedia and other websites to shut down for the day.

The ruckus concerns the House’s Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in the Senate.

The bills, The Washington Times reports, target foreign websites that violate copyright laws online by banning U.S. companies from providing the online thieves with advertising, payments or other Internet services.

Critics of the legislation assert the bills will stifle innovation and cause other significant problems in an Internet-crazed era.

“SOPA and PIPA are badly drafted legislation that won’t be effective at their stated goal (to stop copyright infringement), and will cause serious damage to the free and open Internet,” Wikipedia declares on a webpage explaining its 24-hour blackout and opposing the legislation. “They put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. Small sites won’t have sufficient resources to defend themselves.”

But Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who is the main author of SOPA, said the bill has received the support of 120 businesses and associations from around the country ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Songwriters Association to the AFL-CIO. Some other supporters, Craigslist indicates on its webpage today, include Comcast, News Corp., Nike, Sony and the Recording Industry Association of America.

The blackout by Wikipedia and others isn’t doing Lamar’s bill or PIPA any favors. While the likes of Facebook and Google are operating today, both Web giants also oppose the legislation. And critics are calling on the public to reach out to their local congressional representatives to voice opposition to the bills and sign petitions urging Congress to reject the legislation.  

“The blacklist bills are dangerous; if made into law, they would hamper innovation, kill jobs, wreak havoc on Internet security, and undermine the free speech principles upon which our country was founded,” said Rainey Reitman, activist director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in a statement.

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