Right now the U.S. Congress is considering legislation (SOPA and PIPA) that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, Wikipedia is blacking out their English language edition beginning at midnight January 18, Eastern Time. I join Wikipedia in encouraging you to share your views with your representatives, and with each other on social media. While these bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, many Internet experts believe that they attempt to do so in a manner that will infringe on free expression and in the end will end up harming the culture and value of the Internet. For more information, I suggest visiting the “End Piracy, not Liberty” pages from Google, or the Learn More page on Wikipedia. Another good resource to check out is EFF’s article, “How PIPA and SOPA Violate White House Principles Supporting Free Speech and Innovation.”
While I do admire Wikipedia’s bravado regarding this issue, other Internet players have taken a more subtle approach, encouraging action by putting up a splash screen (Mozilla) or changing their logo (Google) but not blacking out the entire site for a day. Why has Wikipedia blacked out the entire site for the SOPA and PIPA issue, but has not done so for other issues that may be even more important, like hunger, poverty, human rights, etc? It is an issue worth thinking about. Why do we take particular actions with particular issues, and what does that reveal about our deeply held values? Food for thought.
Jason Harvey has posted an excellent technical examination of SOPA and PROTECT IP at http://blog.reddit.com/2012/01/technical-examination-of-sopa-and.html covering Players, Powers, Details, and Fallout: Why this is going to harm user-driven sites like reddit, Why this doesn’t actually stop piracy, Why this is ripe for abuse, and Why this is going to hurt startups and tech innovation
Philip Hodgetts also has a number of good posts on this issue, including some interesting refutions of the MPAA’s case against piracy in the first place. Seth Godin has some good words as well.
As for Wikipedia “cherry picking” their protests, you raise a valid point, though in it’s defense, it’s a fairly relevant issue to Wikipedia itself. It’s nature as a bill that will or won’t be passed at a specific time makes it a bit easier to nail down than something like hunger or poverty.