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.