Wikipedia will black out for a 24-hour protest

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia where users contribute and edit entries, will shut the English version of its website for 24 hours tomorrow, January 18, to oppose proposed U.S. anti-piracy legislation.

The move is a protest against pending legislation including the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, bill, according to a statement by Wikimedia Foundation Inc., the non-profit organization that operates the encyclopedia. The law being discussed in the U.S. is designed to combat issues including illegally copied films and TV content.

"If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States," Wikimedia said in the statement.

The SOPA bill in the House of Representatives and a similar Senate bill are backed by the movie and music industries as a way to crack down on online content theft. Internet companies including Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. are waging a campaign against the legislation, which they say will encourage censorship of Web content and harm technology innovation.

The Obama administration won't back legislation to combat online piracy if it encourages censorship, undermines cybersecurity or disrupts the structure of the Internet, three White House technology officials said Jan. 14. The statement marks the administration's most significant foray into a fight between content creators and Web companies that has been playing out in Congress. The Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural vote Jan. 24 on starting debate on an anti-piracy bill.

Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, called the decision to shut the website an "extraordinary" action in response to the proposed laws, which "endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world."