Sitting around with friends and can't resolve the argument about who won the fourth NFL Super Bowl? Who was the first manager for the Devil Rays? Before today, millions of people could answer those questions and millions more by going to the free encyclopedia website, Wikipedia.
But today, lasting until midnight, the online encyclopedia is shutting down in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
Visit the website and you are greeted with a message:
"For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia."
Wikipedia isn't the only website blacking out in protest. According to Talking Points Memo, Reddit, Mozilla, Wordpress, Twitpic and Moveon.org have also blacked out today.
"Of the proposals considered by Wikipedians, those that would result in a 'blackout' of the English Wikipedia, in concert with similar blackouts on other websites opposed to SOPA and PIPA, received the strongest support," a Wikipedia press release said.
Another online giant, Google, is taking a stand against the proposed anti-piracy legislation. The search engine is not shutting down but blacking out its famous logo for the day.
"Two bills before Congress, known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business. Millions of Internet users and entrepreneurs already oppose SOPA and PIPA.
The Senate will begin voting on January 24th. Please let them know how you feel. Sign this petition urging Congress to vote NO on PIPA and SOPA before it is too late."
In a Jan. 17 story on Talking Points Memo, it said that the bills would, "give copyright holders a more streamlined and powerful system for fighting piracy than under current law, allowing them to file complaints that would then let the U.S. Attorney General seek court orders to take down foreign webpages accused of hosting copyright-infringing activity."
Many sites that have user-generated content, such as Reddit and Wikipedia, fear the definition of 'foreign webpages,' is not clear and could mean censorship.
"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," wrote the Wikipedia Foundation in a press release.
“Today, Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation," said Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia in a Jan. 16 news release. "This is an extraordinary action for our community to take - and while we regret having to prevent the world from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world."