Recently Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’ request for input on what the Wikipedia community should do in response to the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, which I am sorry to say was supported by both of Minnesota’s senators and has only recently lost traction given the Obama Administration’s opposition to it, and even though there is division within the ranks its answer could not be clearer. Wikipedia will be joining the anti-SOPA internet blackout.
Over the course of the past 72 hours, over 1800 Wikipedians have joined together to discuss proposed actions that the community might wish to take against SOPA and PIPA. This is by far the largest level of participation in a community discussion ever seen on Wikipedia, which illustrates the level of concern that Wikipedians feel about this proposed legislation. The overwhelming majority of participants support community action to encourage greater public action in response to these two bills. 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.
Therefore, on behalf of the English Wikipedia community, the Wikimedia Foundation is asked to allocate resources and assist the community in blacking out the project globally for 24 hours starting at 05:00 UTC on January 18, 2012, or at another time as determined by the Wikimedia Foundation. This should be carried out while respecting technical limitations of the underlying software, and should specifically prevent editing wherever possible. Provisions for emergency access to the site should be included in the blackout software. In order to assist our readers and the community at large to educate themselves about SOPA and PIPA, these articles and those closely related to them will remain accessible for reading purposes if possible. Wikipedians are urged to work with WMF staff to develop effective messaging for the “blackout screens” that directs readers to suitable online resources. Sister projects, such as the German and Italian Wikipedias and Wikimedia Commons, have indicated an intention to support the same principles with banners on those sites, and the support of other projects is welcome and appreciated.
Even though SOPA is unlikely to be enacted into law without Obama’s signature this doesn’t mean we’re not in the clearing yet. As long as the internet is open, as long as it is free and as long as there are corporations out there trying to line their pockets, efforts to put chains on the internet are not going to stop. Every attack won’t be as clear or as widely-reported as SOPA but they’re out there; in fact, just a month ago the Research Works Act was introduced in the house that would end the NIH’s “public access policy that says taxpayer-funded research must be freely accessible online. This means that members of the public, having paid once to have the research done, don’t have to pay for it again when they read it”. The consequences of this?
If passed, the Research Works Act (RWA) would prohibit the NIH’s public access policy and anything similar enacted by other federal agencies, locking publicly funded research behind paywalls. The result would be an ethical disaster: preventable deaths in developing countries, and an incalculable loss for science in the USA and worldwide. The only winners would be publishing corporations such as Elsevier (£724m profits on revenues of £2b in 2010 – an astounding 36% of revenue taken as profit).
Oh my. There’s work to be done.