As I write this, something remarkable is happening around the world. Mostly in the US, I suspect. English speaking students are trying to do homework the only way they know how — by visiting Wikipedia.org. Instead of the usual wealth of questionably curated content they’re used to, they’re being greeted by a blackout page that’s denying them the use of the site for 24 hours.
Wikipedia’s not the only site blacking out today; Google’s logo is blacked out, Reddit.com will be going down for 12 hours starting in several hours from the time this is written, and many other sites will be blacking out in various ways. The other site I write for, GeekBeat.TV, will also be observing the blackout.
I’ve been following a Twitter search for the last several hours, completely transfixed, that’s looking for tweets containing the terms “wtf wikipedia.” There are a LOT of them. It’s kind of awe-inspiring to see just how much awareness Wikipedia is raising with the blackout, and a little disturbing how much UNawareness there is out there.
SOPA/PIPA are important issues for any content creators to understand, even ones like myself who don’t live in the United States. It seems on the surface like people in other countries wouldn’t have anything to worry about, but if major sites got pulled and they’re sites we still use, that’s one small impact.
A bigger impact is that the very purpose of SOPA at least is to allow American companies to deal with sites they deem infringing but that they can’t legally touch specifically because they’re outside of American jurisdiction. Under SOPA, they could have made such sites appear to disappear from the Internet. (Could have, because the technical trickery that would have made that possible is no longer part of the bill, thankfully.)
It’s still very important to raise awareness of these issues because you can bet there will be more bills of this nature coming out in the States for consideration, and I’ll be surprised if similar things aren’t brought up in Canada and more countries too. Know about it and be watchful about online freedoms, and hopefully we won’t have to worry about it.