So what IS up with Wikipedia?
If you rely on the people-powered mega-encyclopedia like I do — and according to Alexa, it’s the No. 6 website in the world — you’re probably wondering who turned out the lights. Before I even left home for Channel One News headquarters today, I’d tried and failed to look up whether Dr. Phil is still on the air (he is), where Nathan Lane grew up (Jersey City, N.J.), and what the philosophical field of ethics covers (uh, too long and boring to go into here).
Wikipedia thinks it has something more important to accomplish today than to tell you what happened to Amanda Bynes (“I don’t love acting anymore, so I’ve stopped doing it”). It wants you to worry about SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA, the Protect IP (Intellectual Property) Act, and consider what they could do to the Internet. These two bills are working their way through the U.S. Congress with the full support of the four major music labels and six big film studios, who are concerned with protecting the content they create.
Even though it’s already illegal in the U.S. to make copyrighted material available online, a lot of pirated movies, songs and other content are hosted in other countries. Together, the bills would give the government the right to shut down websites that link to sources of illegal media. According to Wikipedia, “SOPA would require Wikipedia to actively monitor every site we link to, to ensure it doesn’t host infringing content. Any link to an infringing site could put us in jeopardy of being forced offline.” The English version of Wikipedia has almost 4 million articles, which people around the world are editing every second of every day, so a new law could be a big problem for Wikipedia and for you.
Wikipedia is the most prominent opponent of SOPA and PIPA, but other big names are speaking out, too. Google hasn’t entirely gone dark, but its logo is blacked out today as a statement against the bills.
Oh, by the way, wondering how I got the answers I was looking for without Wikipedia? Well, I didn’t. Its mobile site — which you don’t have to be on a mobile device to use — is still working just fine. When you get to a blacked-out page starting with en.wikipedia.org, just change it to en.m.wikipedia.org.