Several websites turn the lights off in opposition to SOPA & PROTECT IP

Wikipedia has gone dark. Not the victim of a hack attack, the popular information hub has voluntarily cut off access to its vast content in protest of the anti-piracy proposal SOPA, which could impact how the Internet works and what web denizens see. It isn’t alone. Craigslist, Reddit, BoingBoing and countless others have enacted similar intentional blocks.

Several websites turn the lights off in opposition to SOPA & PROTECT IP

Regular visitors to the sites participating in the “black out” are met with different statements that say the same thing: SOPA must not be passed.

“Image a world without free knowledge,” proposes Wikipedia’s new main page, which will appear by default for American visitors until 12:01 AM on Thursday. “Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet,” the message continues, urging readers to contact their representatives and speak up.

BoingBoing names both SOPA and PROTECT IP as potential website killers, claiming that if passed the site would be in “legal jeopardy” anytime it linked to a site that linked to copyright infringing material.

“[SOPA and PROTECT IP] provide overly broad mechanisms for enforcement of copyright which would restrict innovation and threaten the existence of websites with user-submitted content,” says Reddit.

The popular social news site previously started a campaign to unseat incumbent Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), though the representative never officially supported SOPA. As the effort picked up steam and publicity regardless, the besieged representative came out against the bill.

“While H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, attempts to address a legitimate problem, I believe it creates the precedent and possibility for undue regulation, censorship and legal abuse,” said Ryan. “I do not support H.R. 3261 in its current form and will oppose the legislation should it come before the full House.”

Meanwhile, actual supporters have backed away from the controversial bill in light of the recent backlash. “I have asked to have my name removed from the bill,” wrote Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) on his Facebook page. “However, the economic impact of IP theft is real and a solution is needed.”

MPAA Chairman and former Senator Chris Dodd railed against the purposeful blackouts, calling them an “irresponsible response” and a “disservice.”

“A so-called ‘blackout’ is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals,” said Dodd. “It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this ‘blackout’ to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”

Dodd added that sites that purposely block their own content to protest SOPA and PROTECT IP are “skewing the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.”

Last month, the trade group predicted that SOPA would pass. The bill missed a pre-Christmas vacation vote in the House. It’s currently being tweaked for future consideration.