Wikipedia Black Out

by Translation Guy on January 18, 2012

The online encyclopedia  has ‘blacked out’ the English-language version for 24 hours today  in protest at the proposed US internet regulation legislation SOPA and PIPA.

Sue Gardner, Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director, announced a decision to “black out the English-language Wikipedia for 24 hours, worldwide, beginning at 05:00 UTC on Wednesday, January 18. The blackout is a protest against proposed legislation in the United States – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate – that, if passed, would seriously damage the free and open Internet, including Wikipedia.”

The law would allow intellectual property owners, such as movie studios or record label to pull the plug on any site they accuse of copyright violation. Gizmodo explains: “If Warner Bros., for example, says that a site in Italy is torrenting a copy of The Dark Knight, the studio could demand that Google remove that site from its search results, that PayPal no longer accept payments to or from that site, that ad services pull all ads and finances from it, and—most dangerously—that the site’s ISP prevent people from even going there.”

Wikipedia is only one of numerous internet companies joining Wednesday’s protest against pending legislation, organized by Fight for the Future, who claim that “PIPA would give the government new powers to block Americans’ access to websites that corporations don’t like. The bill lets corporations and the US government censor entire websites and cut sites off from advertising, payments and donations.

“This legislation will stifle free speech and innovation, and even threaten popular web services like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.”

The protests have  taken legislators by surprise, and the bill is changing day by day as Congress comes up with new formulations to remove the most outrageous aspects of the law. Congress is not used to such scrutiny on copywrite arcana,  which has allowed them to reward corporate benefactors with absurd extension of copyright law without a hint of protest from the public. Hopefully today’s action will check the  expansion and extention of corporate interests at the expense of public discourse and freedom of speech. As translators, language is our business, so it stands to reason that we should make free speech our business too.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Did people translate a lot of Wikipedia articles from other languages to English today ?

    • Ken says:

      Being without wiki for a day was scary. Didn’t learn the java hack until end of day.

  2. Beth Walsh says:

    I have mixed feelings about this legislation. On the one hand, I think that intellectual property should be protected for the artist, writer, studio or design team that created it. On the other, I think that outright censorship (or worse, shutdown) of sites that merely link to copyrighted material or include some (like Youtube) would be wrong. But I find it difficult to figure out how to do both. What do others think of this dilemma?

  3. Steph Kent says:

    Beth, the problem is that most intellectual property is currently owned by corporations not individuals. These corporations have the resources to blanket whatever market you want to work in with mass media marketing, leaving creative individuals out in the cold (unless you have your own unlimited resources, aren’t invested in distribution or having an audience, or are willing to sell your services to some high bidder – who will then own your IP).

    Anonymous – great question! Does anyone know?

    • Ken says:

      Congress backs off, criminal charges against Megaupload, and Anonymous Claims DOJ, RIAA, MPAA Sites Hit for Megaupload Bust. Stay tuned. Very interesting. Thanks for your comment, Steph

  4. Steph Kent says:

    This 11-minute Khan Academy Video explains the benign and alarming aspects of SOPA.

    And here’s a blogpost by Clay Shirky about why we cannot relax: Pick up the pitchforks:
    David Pogue underestimates Hollywood

  5. Odds are the bills fold. If noone is happy with them and they are changing everyday, I think they give up. Of course I am sure it will be revisitied later.

  6. I can’t make up my mind. I think online pirating should be stopped, for the most part, but that websites shouldn’t be blocked because of it. It always seems that the government comes up with legislation that benefits big biz.

  7. All copyright extentions need to go through some formal process. Not just movies and songs, but medications too! I realize drug company’s spend a lot to develop drugs, but if I can by a generic for less than 10 bucks, why is the name brand hundreds? I hope this makes everyone think about what is going on with censorship, copyright, and what is appropriate for all.

  8. Wanda Conway says:

    Question: If the legislation passes in the states, how can the government police websites around the world?

    • Ken says:

      US firms could be required to stop doing business with the foreign sites.

  9. If these pass say goodbye to Youtube. So much of what is there is copywritten material. I hope these protests work.

  10. Lee Stanton says:

    Copyrights are the culprit here. I think those things need to be re-evaluated. How long should someone or some company make money on a a song or book or movie? I realize McCartney wrote some great songs, but a billion dollars and still raking it in?

    • Ken says:

      One percent or bust.

  11. I think it’s great that Wikepedia and others are letting themselves be heard. I just wish someone like Google did more than just blackout their name. It would have been nice to see them actually shut down for a day. People are addicted to that site.

    • Ken says:

      Google rules.

  12. Pam Fuller says:

    I, too, have mixed feelings about this proposed legislation. I do think that people need to rethink about what censorship is and what can and cannot be censored. The constitution was written in a different time and it needs to be updated. However, it needs to reflect the majority of the people, not the crazies or the big corporations.

    • Ken says:

      Who do you think is winning so far, Pam?

  13. Jack Barton says:

    I like Wikipedia, but I often wonder about how factual some of the things are that I read. I know that when my son worked on his science fair project for school he was not allowed to use Wikipedia as a reference. Either way, I think that it’s a great website to read and I hope it stayes around.

    • Ken says:

      There is lots of wrong info of wikipedia, but I believe it anyway.

  14. Freda Deahl says:

    I appreciate you taking the time to create this post. It has been genuinely valuable to me surely. Value it.

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