If you’re planning on using Wikipedia this Wednesday, January 18th, you may be disappointed. The web site is strongly considering a 12 hour blackout, to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act, or “SOPA.” Other major sites, most notably Reddit.com have already announced blackouts that day. According to a statement by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales on a recent Wiki discussion board:
“I’m all in favor of it, and I think it would be great if we could act quickly to coordinate with Reddit. I’d like to talk to our government affairs advisor to see if they agree on this as useful timing, but assuming that’s a green light, I think that matching what Reddit does (but in our own way of course) per the emerging consensus on how to do it, is a good idea.”
The blackout coincides with the January 18th reconvening of congressional hearings regarding the controversial bill. SOPA was proposed a few months ago as a way to stop cyber piracy of copyrighted works, and is supported by major members of the fashion, motion picture, and recording industries. But opponents of the bill, such as Google, Youtube, Wikipedia and Facebook say it could have major unintended side effects. Under the bill, Web sites with copyright-infringing content can effectively be shut down, regardless of where the sites are hosted, or whether the content is user-generated.
According to Los Angeles-based intellectual property attorney Michael Cohen, the bill could alter the internet landscape in major and potentially unforeseen ways.
“For better or worse, this bill will change the web. This is the first internet legislation that gives real power to copyright holders,” says Mr. Cohen. “In the future, the history of the internet might be divided into two phases, before SOPA and after SOPA.”
The blackout has been snowballing since Reddit.com first announced its blackout a few days ago. Although the extent of the blackout is unknown, sites like Google (which may post a censored-out logo), Twitter, and even Facebook are quickly discussing their options.