It has been announced that Wikipedia will be taken offline for 24 hours this Wednesday (18th January) to protest against the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) that is currently going through the United States Senate. Founder Jimmy Wales announced this earlier via Twitter, after reaching a consensus amongst senior members of the Wikipedia community.
The entirety of the English language Wikipedia website will be inaccessible from 5AM to 5PM GMT, which could disrupt last-minute revision efforts for Southampton students who habitually refer to Wikipedia.
The Protect Intellectual Property Act, and its sister bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) are currently being proposed in the United States, granting the ability to stop people accessing websites that contain material that has infringed copyright. Significant opposition has been mounted against these measures, and the proposals are seen by many in the Internet community as threatening vibrant start-up companies that host user content on their website, as well as being similar in nature to policies enacted by oppressive regimes.
Wikipedia was founded just over 11 years ago, and has since grown to be the 6th most popular website in the world, receiving on average 25 million hits around the globe everyday. Similar actions were taken last year on the Italian-language Wikipedia to protest the wiretapping bill, being proposed in the Italian parliament.
The White House have released a statement of opposition to SOPA and PIPA, but it is still unclear whether it will pass or not.