Wikipedia, MoveOn, Reddit, Mozilla shuts down to protest SOPA/PIPA, how to prepare

Prototype of Jan. 18 blackout screen designed by Wikipedia community
Wikipedia
Prototype of Jan. 18 blackout screen designed by Wikipedia community.
Wikipedia

(CBS) - On Jan. 18, the English version of Wikipedia will go down for 24-hours to protest the U.S. anti-piracy laws - Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). FYI, that's midnight tonight. Here's everything you need to know to prepare for tomorrow's Internet blackout.

Wikipedia's role in tomorrow's protest

Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner made the announcement to join in the Internet blackout day started by link-sharing site Reddit on Jan. 16. The decision to shutdown was decided by the greater community that writes, edits and posts articles.

"Over the course of the past 72 hours, over 1,800 Wikipedians have joined together to discuss proposed actions that the community might wish to take against SOPA and PIPA," Wikipedia said in a press release. "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."

Who else is joining the Internet blackout Jan. 18?

Wikipedia joins sites like MoveOn, Reddit, BoingBoing, Mozilla, WordPress, TwitPic and the ICanHasCheezBurger network. Google, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr will not be joining the day of protest, however, all have expressed their stance against the bills.

The move for Wikipedia to go down for a day is probably the most disruptive of all because of the sheer amount of visitors who rely on the site for up-to-date information. The English version of the site has 3.8 million pages alone. According to Wales, "comScore estimates the English Wikipedia receives 25 million average daily visitors globally."

Full coverage of SOPA on Tech Talk
SOPA opera: the Internet dukes it out with Congress
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SOPA opposition from tech heavyweights Google, Facebook

MoveOn announced that they would join Wikipedia in the protest Monday. Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn released this statement today:

"Congress is playing fast and loose with Internet censorship legislation that would have people like Justin Bieber thrown in jail for uploading a video to YouTube. The Internet censorship legislation could severely restrict free speech, and put a stranglehold on one of the most innovative, job-creating industries of our time. MoveOn is joining the massive website blackout because it's critical to preserve an open internet that enables our members to engage on issues they care about. Members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, would be wise to take a step back and reconsider their support for this reckless legislation."

What should I do in the meanwhile?

Wales suggests doing your homework early. Some great tools to use to capture screen grabs of Wikipedia pages now are Evernote (PC/Mac), Skitch (Mac) or Paparazzi (Mac).

There's always Encyclopedia Britannica Online, although the articles aren't as up-to-date as Wikipedia.

If you seriously need Wikipedia and have 5 terabytes of space to spare, you can always download the entire database. Good luck with that, though. The average download speed in the U.S. is 3.0 megabits per second and there are 8.3 million megabits in a terabyte.

Worst-case scenario, you can always go "old school" and visit your local library. Many libraries have online catalogs, so you can do a bit of research before you hit the stacks.

What is SOPA and PIPA? 

SOPA and PIPA are intended to curb the illegal download of copyrighted materials from foreign "rogue" sites, like The Pirate Bay. There is already legislation that provides some protection for copyrighted material, like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which requires companies to remove copyrighted content "in good faith."

Worst-case scenarios are being debated. The Electronic Frontier Foundation speculates, "Instead of complying with the DMCA, a copyright owner may now be able to use these new provisions to effectively shut down a site by cutting off access to its domain name, its search engine hits, its ads, and its other financing even if the safe harbors would apply."