SOPA Learn more page for review

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Hey folks -- This page, which is what you get when you click "Learn more" on the enWP blackout page, was written by me, Geoff, Jay and Matthew Roth, with some support from folks on IRC and e-mail. I have copy-and-pasted its text below. If you want to see changes on the enWP page, please make them here for now. Follow the usual way -- make small changes directly, discuss substantial changes on the talk page first. When I wake up, I will check back here for changes :-) Thanks Sue Gardner 12:32, 18 January 2012 (UTC)


Why is Wikipedia blacked-out?
Wikipedia is protesting against SOPA and PIPA by blacking out the English Wikipedia for 24 hours, beginning at midnight January 18, Eastern Time. Readers who come to English Wikipedia during the blackout will not be able to read the encyclopedia. Instead, you will see messages intended to raise awareness about SOPA and PIPA, encouraging you to share your views with your representatives, and with each other on social media.
What are SOPA and PIPA?
SOPA and PIPA represent two bills, in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate respectively. SOPA is short for the "Stop Online Piracy Act," and PIPA is short for the "Protect IP Act." ("IP" stands for "intellectual property.") These bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites. However, in our opinion, they do so in a way that infringes free expression and harms the Internet. Detailed information can be found in the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act articles on Wikipedia, which are available during the blackout. GovTrack lets you follow both bills through the legislative process: SOPA on this page, and PIPA on this one. The EFF has summarized why these bills are simply unacceptable in a world that values an open, secure, and free Internet.
Why is the blackout happening?
Wikipedians have chosen to black out the English Wikipedia for the first time ever, because we are concerned that SOPA and PIPA will severely inhibit people's access to online information. This problem will affect everyone around the world, not just people in the United States.
Why? SOPA and PIPA are poorly drafted laws. They will not be effective at their stated goal (to stop copyright infringement), but will produce a chilling effect on websites sharing information. They put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material, and they make it possible for a mistaken complaint to damage a site, even if copyright isn't being infringed. They would allow entire sites to be blacklisted from appearing in Search engines, and to have their payment-processing accounts frozen. Small sites will not have the resources to defend themselves against such complaints. Larger organizations with good legal teams could take advantage of this to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors. Finally, SOPA and PIPA build a framework for future restrictions and suppression.
Does this mean that Wikipedia itself is violating copyright laws, or hosting pirated content?
No, not at all. Some supporters of SOPA and PIPA have suggested that everyone who opposes them is cavalier about copyright, but that is untrue. Wikipedians are knowledgeable and extremely vigilant in protecting against violations: we spend thousands of hours every week reviewing and removing infringing or unlicensed content. In most cases we are stricter than the law requires, and act within minutes or hours of notification. Because our mission is to share knowledge freely so that others can reuse that knowledge, we do not tolerate infringement. All material we include from third parties is required to be freely licensed and third party permissions sought and held on file where necessary.
Isn't SOPA dead? Wasn't the bill shelved, and didn't the White House declare that it won't sign anything that resembles the current bill?
No, neither SOPA nor PIPA is dead. On January 17th, SOPA's sponsor said the bill will be discussed in early February. PIPA is scheduled to be debated on the Senate floor next week. Moreover, SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem. In many jurisdictions around the world, we see the development of laws that prioritize overly-broad copyright enforcement, and laws pushed by industries threatened by the free exchange of information, over the preservation of individual civil liberties.
How could SOPA and PIPA hurt Wikipedia?
SOPA and PIPA threaten Wikipedia in many ways. In its current form, SOPA would require Wikipedia to actively monitor every site we link to, to ensure the linked-to site doesn't host infringing content. Linking to infringing sites, even in articles describing their notability, could put Wikipedia at risk of being removed from search engines, or of having our fundraising accounts frozen. Related services hosted in other countries would be at additional risk.
How can SOPA and PIPA hurt other websites, businesses, and individuals if they haven't done anything wrong?
SOPA and PIPA affect every website and website user worldwide, both inside and outside the United States. People and companies in the U.S. will be able to shut down or censor websites in another country with no warning, even if they have done nothing illegal. The laws give full immunity for harmful incorrect allegations.
Every website worldwide will have to follow U.S. laws even if the business or organization has nothing to do with the United States. There is no exemption even for small mistakes. Website owners will have to police all posts, comments or feedback from users, and check every other website their users linked. It becomes their responsibility if anything on the site points to anything against these laws. Safe harbor and notifications stop; the first step can be removing the site from the net. Faced with such laws, many websites will become impractical to operate. Users inside and outside the U.S. will suffer.
In some countries, people are repressed and face censorship or torture. They use software to access and share knowledge from the outside world and allow free speech. SOPA and PIPA prohibit bypassing of restrictions, or helping others to bypass them, which makes creating or distributing this kind of software a criminal offense worldwide. In some countries you can be extradited to the United States for this. If you later travel to the United States, you can be arrested.
I live in the United States. What's the best way for me to help?
The most effective action you can take is to call your representatives and tell them you oppose SOPA, PIPA, and any similar legislation. Type your zipcode into the locator box to find your representatives' contact information. Emails and written letters are okay, but phone calls have the most impact. You can also help friends and colleagues learn about these bills.
I don't live in the United States. How can I help?
SOPA and PIPA affect non-American readers – like you. Contact your local State Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or similar branch of government. Tell them you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and any similar legislation being forced on your country. Make clear that this places your country's websites and internet use under U.S. laws. Calling your own government will also let them know you don't want them to create their own bad anti-Internet legislation. British users can sign one of many available e-petitions, for example, including this one.
Is it still possible to access Wikipedia in any way?
Yes. During the blackout, Wikipedia is accessible on mobile devices and smart phones. You can also view Wikipedia normally by disabling JavaScript in your browser, as explained on this Technical FAQ page. Our purpose is not to make it impossible for people to read Wikipedia, and it is okay for you to circumvent the blackout. We just want to make sure you see our message.
I keep hearing that this is a fight between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Is that true?
No. Some people characterize it that way, perhaps because they believe that all participants are motivated by commercial self-interest. But it is not that simple. Wikipedia for instance has no financial self-interest at play: we do not benefit from copyright infringement, nor do we monetize traffic or sell ads. We are protesting to raise awareness about SOPA and PIPA because we think they will weaken the Internet, obscure information online, and hinder our mission to make knowledge freely available to all. We are doing this for our readers.
In carrying out this protest, is Wikipedia abandoning neutrality?
While Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence is not. For the past decade, millions of people have contributed to our projects, including the largest encyclopedia in human history -- all of which are freely available, not the most expensive books in the library. This is a tremendous change in our society. It would not have been possible without a free, open, and uncensored Internet - and laws that supported this kind of very large scale collaboration. Our articles carry millions of links so facts can be checked for accuracy; if linking is censored then many important articles cannot be written. Other articles will miss important information and editorial decisions will be subject to American censorship. SOPA and PIPA would make collaborations of this kind unachievable and easy for opponents to censor.
We want to preserve a world in which projects like Wikipedia are possible -- that is why we are doing this. We aim to remain a neutral source for information.
What can I read to get more information?
Try these links:
As of midnight PT, January 18, Google has 3,740 articles about the blackout. Here are a few: