Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts say the legislation will cripple the internet and stifle free speech
In less than 14 hours Wikipedia will shut down its English language version for 24 hours in protest against draconian US internet piracy laws being discussed in Congress.
Wikipedia's blackout is to highlight anger and concern over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA).
Although backed by media giants such as Rupert Murdoch and by Hollywood, the legislation has serious critics among internet users and companies such as Google.
Although designed to stop piracy, opponents of the legislation warned that, if passed, these laws will, among other things, cripple the internet and have serious consequences for free speech.
Announcing the 24-hour shutdown, which starts at 5am GMT on Wednesday until 5am GMT on Thursday, Sue Gardner, Wiki's executive director said: "It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these Bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open web... The decision to shut down the English Wikipedia wasn't made by me; it was made by editors, through a consensus decision-making process. But I support it."
SOPA was introduced in October 2011 as a way to let rights holders tackle websites based outside US jurisdiction. If passed it would, among other things, criminalise the unauthorised streaming of copyright content in America. Those accused of doing this more than 10 times in six months would face up to five years in jail.
But what also alarms many internet users is it would allow US Department of Justice to seek court orders against websites that are allegedly hosting copyright content illegally; even though the companies are based outside America.
The law could also force search engines to block offending sites so they effectively ‘disappear' from the internet. Payment processors, such as Paypal would also be forced to withdraw their services.
PIPA, which is a parallel Bill, would help enhance "enforcement against rogue websites operated and registered overseas".
Currently SOPA is being discussed in the House of Representatives. However the White House does not appear to be a huge fan of parts of the legislation and sent the legislators back to the drawing board.
The Obama Administration wrote: "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.
"Across the globe, the openness of the internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government and society and it must be protected.
"To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current US law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing US laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity."
But this doesn't mean the Bills are dead, which is why Wednesday's protests are going ahead.
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