Wikipedia, Google join anti-piracy bill protest (Lead)

January 18th, 2012 - 11:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 18 (IANS) Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, went offline Wednesday, joining a daylong internet strike of over a dozen other websites, including Google, to protest proposed US laws purportedly aimed at combating digital piracy.

Discussion forums Reddit and Boing Boing, and Firefox browser designer Mozilla also are closing down Wednesday in protest. Hundreds of other sites, such as search-engine giant Google, are posting links on their home pages highlighting opposition to the legislation, the Washington Times reported.

The English version of Wikipedia’s website became inaccessible at 5 a.m. Wikipedia is opposing the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) being debated by Congress.

Jimmy Wales, who founded the site, told the BBC: “Proponents of SOPA have characterised the opposition as being people who want to enable piracy or defend piracy.”

Google blacked out its logo on the US version of its website and added a link encouraging Americans to oppose the bills.

SOPA and PIPA being debated in the Senate target foreign websites that violate copyrights online by banning US companies from providing them with advertising, payment or other internet services.

US payment processors and advertisers would have to end service to foreign websites that copyright holders say are infringing their rights, or be liable to be sued. Search engines and internet companies would be banned from providing links to infringing sites.

The proposed laws “endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of internet censorship for the world,” said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales in a statement.

He said Wikipedia’s English-language community decided to join the strike after a three-day debate in which 1,800 members of the encyclopedia’s global community participated.

Critics argue that the proposals would stifle internet innovation, a key driver of US and global economic growth.

Mozilla Corp., the nonprofit that produces the Firefox browser, said the proposed laws would “protect content at all costs, creating the opportunity for abuse and damaging online capabilities for all of us,” according to the Washington Times.

Supporters of the bills include movie and music companies such as Walt Disney, content providers such as the National Football League and News Corp., pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly, and the US Chamber of Commerce.

They argue the bills’ sweeping provisions are necessary to shutter the burgeoning numbers of foreign-based cybercrime sites that sell counterfeit goods, pirated software or fake pharmaceuticals, or stream copyrighted content like music and movies.

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