Wikipedia to Shut for 24 Hours to Protest Proposed U.S. Anti-Piracy Laws

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia where users contribute and edit entries, will shut the English version of its website for 24 hours tomorrow 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. (GOOG) and Facebook Inc. are waging a campaign against the legislation, which they say will encourage censorship of Web content and harm technology innovation.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch called Google a “piracy leader” in a Jan. 14 post on Twitter, saying that it streams movies for free and sells advertisements around them. A day later he wrote in his Twitter account that Google is a “great company doing many exciting things. Only one complaint, and it’s important.”

Miranda Higham, a News Corp. (NWSA) spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Obama Administration

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.”

Wikipedia, available in 282 languages, contains more than 20 million articles contributed by a global volunteer community of more than 100,000 people.

Spokespeople at Wikipedia and Wikimedia weren’t immediately available to comment. Ollie Rickman, a Google spokesman, and Sophy Tobias, a Facebook spokeswoman, didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chiara Remondini in Milan at cremondini@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.