On Wednesday January 18, Wikipedia (English), the Internet Archive and many other online sites will go offline for a day in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) currently before Congress. SOPA is aimed at curtailing online piracy and unauthorized copying of copyrighted materials, but critics of the bill claim that it is overly broad and provides inadequate redress in cases of mistaken accusations. SOPA includes provisions for essentially removing a site branded as “rogue” from being found online, forcing search companies to remove listings among other measures. There is considerable support for SOPA among copyright holders including many publishers that will be familiar to you. The House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary’s page about SOPA contains the language of the bill as well as a list of supporting companies (PDF).
Another bill that may be of more interest at UCSD is the Research Works Act, which aims to reverse recent mandates instituted by research granting agencies on making articles resulting from publicly-funded research openly available. This bill is heavily endorsed by the commercial publishing industry and while it will affect fewer general-interest websites like Wikipedia or YouTube, the impact on researchers would be more profound. As you can imagine, there is considerable debate about this one. Here’s a statement from the Association of American Publishers which enthusiastically supports it, and an editorial in the New York Times from UC Berkeley’s Michael Eisen, an equally enthusiastic opponent (and co-founder of PLoS).
Things to think about while you are without Wikipedia for a day!