Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia will be voluntarily inaccessible tomorrow - Wednesday, 18 January 2012 - as part of a protest against proposed new internet legislation concerning piracy.
Along with many other parties of the online world, Wikipedia is opposed to the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which are being considered by US Congress.
PIPA (full title Preventing Real Online Threats To Economic Creativity And Theft Of Intellectual Property Act) was introduced as a bill in May 2011 with the aim of allowing the US government to increase copyright controls and prevent access to certain websites. The SOPA bill arose in October 2011 and proposes increased law enforcement measures relating to internet piracy.
Both would require all websites to check every item of material they host to ensure it doesn't infringe copyright laws, rather than waiting for a specific notification from the copyright holder when an infringement is observed.
'A frightening precedent'
Those who oppose the proposed laws feel that this is an unfair level of responsibility and will also restrict the freedoms that people have enjoyed when using the internet since its mainstream inception.
The White House has stated that it will not back some areas of the bills - much to the chagrin of media magnate Rupert Murdoch - but Wikipedia and other websites, such as link-sharing platform Reddit, still intend to go ahead with the protest.
In a statement, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said: "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."
English versions of Wikipedia will be unavailable for 24 hours, beginning at midnight tonight (Tuesday, 17 January 2012). It is one of the most visited websites in the world and Wales expects 100 million people to be affected by the blackout.
Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "This is a very big statement by Wikipedia and follows controversy caused by Rupert Murdoch at the weekend with an attack on Google. These two powerful voices are on either side of a groundbreaking debate on how the internet's future should be shaped. It is an issue which cannot fail to polarise opinions."