Hours after Wikipedia blacked out its 24-hour English-language site to protest legislation aimed at stopping online piracy, websites started publishing ways to get around it. Mashable offers tips for the tech savvy and the Atlantic has a new tool that lets users search Google’s cache of Wikipedia articles. The Washington Post, the Guardian and National Public Radio are responding to Twitter questions using the hashtag #altwiki.
Congrats to those who have figured out a way to bypass the blackout, but is the emphasis on avoiding the inconvenience helping the case of Wikipedia, Reddit, Boing Boing, Craigslist and other websites blacking out their sites today? In the spirit of opposing the anti-piracy laws, alternative sites are highlighting what’s become inevitable online: the ease with which people can get around barriers to content.
The blacked-out websites are protesting the Stop Online Piracy Act and its Senate version, the Protect Intellectual Property Act, which would give the government the power to limit websites that contain pirated content. Hollywood’s eager for more copyright protection, while Internet companies worry the legislation could damage a free and open Internet.
In an increasingly interdependent Web, online news organizations rely on traffic from sites like Wikipedia and Reddit that could be limited if the legislation passes.
A day without Wikipedia may be a nuisance, but it’s also a reminder of the importance of preserving Internet freedom, David Carr writes in the New York Times:
I have no issue with Wikipedia going Web native and reminding us all that what we take as a given — a friction-free Internet — can be wiped out in the important, but complicated battle to fight piracy.
Stu West, who is a board member of the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, estimates that about 145 million people will be affected by the site’s 24-hour blackout. Instead of driving those visitors to alternate sources to avoid the problem, let’s use the opportunity of a black screen to pause and examine it.
For more from Bloomberg View on the issue, check out our editorial on how Hollywood should face the music on online piracy.
(Kirsten Salyer is the social media editor for Bloomberg View.)