The Wikipedia blackout seems to have worked its magic this week, not only sending students and journalists worldwide into a blind panic but also reportedly causing US officials to reconsider the controversial ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA).
Wikipedia took its English-language content offline for 24 hours yesterday as part of a ‘day of darkness’ in protest to SOPA, which it says could “fatally damage” the free and open nature of the Internet and “limit people’s access to online information”. It was also joined by blackouts from other US based sites including Reddit and Boing Boing.
In a furore that, to an extent echoes debate in the UK around the implementation of the Digital Economy Act, House of Representatives bill SOPA has seemingly kicked up so much fuss due to its proposal of using Domain Name System (DNS) blocking of suspect sites. The bill also states that search engines should remove infringing sites from their results and that US government and rights holders would have the right to seek court orders and shut down against any site accused of "enabling or facilitating" piracy. The broad definition of this seems to be a particular sticking point, meaning that a site containing links to music, films or other content under copyright, could be in danger of being taken off-line.
However, SOPA and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) both seem unlikely to go any further, at least in their current form, with Speaker of the House Of Representatives John Boehner saying that he didn't feel either could now go to his congressional chamber for a vote.
Wikipedia is now back online (phew!) but has declared: “We’re not done yet”, saying that their blackout had encouraged eight million people to contact politicians to protest about SOPA.
In a faintly comical twist, Rupert Murdoch popped up in the middle of the debate like a pantomime villain, taking to Twitter and basically saying that Google facilitated piracy. Presumably Murdoch is now busy paying damages to those 37 victims of phone hacking that he knew absolutely nothing about.