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SOPA Provokes a Wikipedia Blackout

By the time you are reading this, Wikipedia may have already started its self-imposed blackout in protest of Internet piracy bill that is being debated in Congress. The Stop Online Piracy Act is designed to stop the sale and distribution of pirated products such as movies and music, mainly from U.S.-based entities to those overseas. But technology companies, including Wikipedia, Google and AOL, see this as a move that will affect the free Internet. In protest, Wikipedia instituted a planned blackout on Wednesday with other companies, including the growing site, Reddit, indicating they may go dark as well.

What is it about the legislation that has these companies concerned? The most talked about provision is the one that will allow federal authorities to create a blacklist. Internet companies would have to block sites suspected of pirating, which would force them to “police” the Internet. That means search engine sites such as Google and Yahoo, could not link to them. The technology company officials say this destroys the idea of a ‘free Internet.’

But the bill has the backing of some powerful lobbyists, many of them movie and music industry giants. The Country Music Association and the U.S. Chamber of commerce are among those who support the legislation. They say pirated content is costing jobs and the online pirates are “stealing” their creative work.

As technology companies protest the bill, no movement on them is expected in the next few days. The bill is essentially “on hold” and the sponsor of the Senate version, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), has indicated he is open to revisions. In a statement issued by the White House from three managers, it appears that President Barack Obama has his concerns as well.

“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet” the statement said. “Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small.”

What do you think of the legislation? Do you think the blackout will get Congress’ attention?

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