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English Wikipedia blackout Wednesday: Stop SOPA and PIPA, too!

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, said that he plans to join other Web sites in ceasing operations on Wednesday to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which is now being debated in Congress. Wales called it a “decision of the Wikipedia community,” and noted that the final details are still under consideration, but that the consensus seems to be for a “full” rather than a “soft” blackout!

The news site, Reddit, announced last week that it would shut down for 12 hours on Wednesday to express its disapproval of SOPA and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), its counterpart in the U.S. Senate. The Cheezburger Network will also join the blackout.

Big record companies and Hollywood film studios support the two bills. Web and high-tech companies, and human rights groups, generally oppose the two bills asserting that the bills would rob the Web of free speech and damage or destroy the Internet as we know it.

As a photographer, I understand the importance of copyrights. As a citizen of the U.S. (and a former worker in Silicon Valley’s high tech and Internet industries), I understand the importance of free speech. I have to side with the tech sector in opposing these two bills, which have been raised, promoted, and supported by people who (let’s be generous :-) ) do not understand their ramifications.

On Friday, Representative Chairman Lamar Smith (Republican, Texas), who is one of SOPA’s biggest supporters, announced that he plans to remove the DNS-block requirement from SOPA. The DNS block would have allowed the U.S. Department of Justice to obtain a court order to make a suspected pirate Web site effectively disappear by becoming unreachable. (One of my former employers manages the domain name resolution for the “.com” and the “.net” global domains.)

What ever happened to “due process?:-(

Smith’s announceent followed one by Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat, Vermont), who sponsored PIPA, that he would remove a similar DNS blocking requirement from the Senate version.

As you can tell from the bipartisan support for the two bills, neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to care much about free speech and due process anymore, and probably care even less about “the 99%” in the U.S. underclass of income earners.

In a tweet this morning, Wales said, “”We have no indication that SOPA is fully off the table.” “PIPA is still alive and kicking. We need to send Washington a BIG message.”

According to Wales, the Wikipedia outage will last 24 hours and affect only the English language version of the site.

I, for one, will greatly miss it while it’s gone. Let’s hope that some folks in “D.C.” wake up and take notice.

(Note added January 17, 2012 at 9:25 PM PST: The English language version of Wikipedia went down at midnight U.S. Eastern time tonight. The Google search site has a black patch over the Google logo and, when you click the patch, the banner, “End Piracy, Not Liberty” and more information on SOPA and PIPA and a place to sign a petition. ARE YOU LISTENING, CONGRESS?)

-Bill at

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