You may or may not have noticed, but Wikipedia is offline today. So are a host of other sites big and small: Reddit, WordPress, MoveOn, Boing Boing and hundreds others have suspended access to protest current legislation in front of Congress, known as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (the Protect IP Act).
It’s very easy to share things online, but when does it cross the line into stealing, and what recourse do rights holders (authors, artists, musicians, and filmmakers, among many others) have? These are the issues that the legislation purports to address. Both bills are ostensibly aimed at curtailing piracy of copyrighted material online, but detractors assert the bills go too far, allowing rights holders to seek court orders requiring search engines to stop doing business with (effectively blocking) infringing sites. The main contention is that the infringement bar is set too low, the potential for false accusations abounds, and sites that generate a great deal of user content are most likely to end up as targets. Supporters contend that copyright infringement is under-regulated in the digital environment and the new legislation addresses this.
PCWorld ran an excellent article on the issue recently sketching out both sides if you want to know more – check it out.
And while you can’t access Wikipedia, remember that the library provides authoritative content, absolutely free with no blackouts. 🙂