Some of the best-known sites on the internet, including Wikipedia, are limiting access today in a "Dark Wednesday" protest against legislation before the U.S. Congress intended to curb copyright infringement that critics say will limit the scope of the web and adversely affect legitimate websites.
Popular Canadian sitesjoining the protest include Tucows, a Toronto-based site that hosts free software for download, Identi.ca, a social microblogging service and the blog of University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, an oft-cited expert on copyright issues.
There are two similar bills addressing protection of intellectual property online currently being considered by Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which is before the House of Representatives judiciary committee, and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), which is to be voted on by the Senate next week.
Last weekend, the White House signaled its opposition to the bills, which are supposed to make it easier for copyright holders to go after "foreign rogue websites" suspected of facilitating infringement of copyright.
Under the current draft of SOPA, courts could order credit card firms, online payment companies like PayPal and advertising networks to stop doing business with those websites. They could also order search engines to stop linking to them and internet service providers (ISPs) to block their customers from accessing them, although in recent days, the lead sponsor of SOPA, Republican congressman Lamar Smith, has backed off the ISP provision. PIPA was also being revised to address some of the concerns voiced in recent days.