In an unprecedented move, Wikipedia, the go-to web-based encyclopaedia, has decided to shut down its English-language website for 1 day on 18 January in protest against the US online piracy bill.
The decision to "go dark" came out of discussions between over 1800 Wikipedians during a 72-hour period, culminating in this protest action against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).
According to the site, "This is by far the largest level of participation in a community discussion ever seen on Wikipedia, which illustrates the level of concern that Wikipedians feel about this proposed legislation."
This blackout protest is going ahead despite news that the White House has as good as halted the SOPA bill, but Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, said that it's important it goes ahead anyway, citing PIPA as a cause for concern.
"PIPA is still extremely dangerous,” said Wales. He continued: "Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation. This is an extraordinary action for our community to take - and while we regret having to prevent the world from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world."
There are, however, two sides to any argument and many supporters of the acts claim that the money lost through piracy is unacceptable to large media companies and artists alike.
Although it does seem that the legislation put forward is a somewhat sledgehammer approach as it doesn't look carefully enough at how it would affect censorship of the web. As with most things balance is key and if piracy is to be addressed then care needs to be taken to ensure the Internet remains as free and open as possible.
Other sites are set to join Wikipedia in the blackout, which will begin 5AM GMT on Wednesday until 5AM GMT on Thursday.