Wikipedia Blackout a Stand for Internet Rights

by on March 7th, 2015
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COMMENTARY | I use Wikipedia upwards of a dozen times per day. Sometimes I need to research a specific topic and occasionally I just look at few of the articles of the day. Wednesday, Jan. 18, was difficult for me, because Wikipedia was blacked out.

In protest of anti-piracy bills, a number of sites shut down or had altered or limited services for a 24 hour period. Any Wikipedia search returned a simple one page site that urged people to call their local congressmen regarding the bill. Google remained active, thankfully, but had a black stripe across their logo, rendering the colorful “Google” invisible.

The anti-piracy bills are being pushed by Hollywood execs who are trying to protect their copyrighted material from being illegally distributed. The bills, if passed, would hold more groups and websites liable for allowing pirated content to change hands. Instead of only holding the two parties exchanging materials guilty, the website that connected them would be liable. In addition the company that hosted any involved websites might be held guilty as well. If passed the bill could hold liable any website which in anyway contributed to the exchange of copyrighted materials.

For example, a photo posted on Wikipedia without proper consent could make Wikipedia themselves liable as well as any other companies indirectly involved. A Google search that revealed such illegal exchanges could be held liable. YouTube, which strongly fights the uploading of materials without proper copyright, could be sued if their site happened to have an illegal video.

The battle has been dubbed the bout of Hollywood versus Silicon Valley.

Luckily for opponents of the two bills the one day blackout seems to have had a great effect. Wikipedia, which normally gets upwards of 100 million visitors per day, had more than 100,000 people click through the link provided to contact their local representatives.

I can understand both sides of the argument. Hollywood has the right to try to protect their content, but the proposed bills go too far. The amount of censorship and liability required of the bills make the “free speech” of the internet essentially impossible. The list of parties at fault in any sort of infraction is too numerous to justify and some happy medium must be reached. It is unclear exactly what will happen, however it appears that this one day protest by interest powerhouses has displayed the true power of the internet.

Source: Patrick May, Wikipedia, Google and other websites protest of anti-piracy laws, Mercury News.com

Associated Press, No Wikipedia? What if the Internet went down?, Wall Street Journal.com


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