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Why this blackout, Wiki?

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CIOL Bureau
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BANGALORE, INDIA: You are bound to have the above question in mind, if you have flipped through the pages of news portals and morning dailies.

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Here is exactly why Wikipedia, the free, web-based, encyclopedia supported by the Wikimedia Foundation, has blackened itself out from 10.30 am IST on Wednesday. It is, however, only restricted to its English community.

Why the blackout?

The 24-hour blackout is intended to bring about awareness on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) being proposed by the U.S. Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. It is also to encourage its supporters, authors and users to speak out against the proposed legislation.

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While media companies are in favour of the bills being passed, technology majors are opposing them. As far as Wikipedia is concerned, passing of the bills would effectively mean an end to its operations.

What are SOPA and PIPA?

The bills are proposed to curb media piracy on foreign websites that infringe copyrighted material. Interestingly, they also apply to counterfeit consumer goods and medication.

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Under certain earlier provisions of the bills, the U.S. Department of Justice could seek court orders necessitating Internet service providers (ISPs) to block the domain names of infringing sites. Since blocking ISPs was a major concern among Internet security experts, both SOPA and PIPA have dropped it.

The bills empower rights holders to seek court orders requiring payment providers, advertisers, and search engines to stop doing business with an infringing site and that search links to that site be removed. The defaulting site can appeal within five days against the orders.

While SOPA defines a "foreign infringing site" as any site that is "committing or facilitating" copyright infringement, PIPA is restricted to sites with "no significant use other than" copyright infringement.

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What is Wiki's view?

Wikipedia feels that the bills are "deeply problematic", despite these being amended since introduction. Among other serious problems in the current draft of the bills, says Wiki, the requirement exists for US-based sites to actively police links to purported infringing sites.

According to Wiki, these kinds of self-policing activities are non-sustainable for large, global sites — including ones like itself. "Congress says it's trying to protect the rights of copyright owners, but the 'cure' that SOPA and PIPA represent is worse than the disease."

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"SOPA and PIPA are real threats to the free and open Internet... there is a need to send a strong message that bills like SOPA and PIPA must not move forward: they will cause too much damage," warns Wiki.

Can I access Wiki during blackout?

Users can access the English Wikipedia on mobile devices and smartphones. As the protest message is powered by JavaScript, you can also view Wikipedia by completely disabling JavaScript in your browser.

What can I do to support Wiki's cause?

Indian users of Wiki and those outside the U.S. can contact their local State Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or similar branch of government to intimate them that they oppose the draft SOPA and PIPA, and all similar legislation.

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