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Online encyclopedia Wikipedia later today will begin a 24-hour blackout of its Web site to protest against anti-piracy legislation under consideration in Congress, founder Jimmy Wales announced.

The online community-sourced information site will shut down its English versions for all of Wednesday (US time) as a protest of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) pending in Congress, which the Internet industry sees as a form of censorship.

In Australia the blackout should begin at 4pm AEST.

A number of other – though somewhat lesser known – Web sites, including those of Cheezburger, Reddit and Boing Boing, have also announced plans to go dark.

However their protests may not be necessary. Observers say SOPA at least appears dead in the water after the White House at the weekend announced it would not support its passage – an announcement that drew the ire of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who declared on Twitter that President Obama was in thrall to “Silicon Valley paymasters”, particularly to “piracy leader” Google.

Three White House officials – including US CTO Aneesh Chopra – said in a blog post that the Administration would not support “legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

 

However they did call on Congress to pass some form of legislation this year that would combat online piracy.

SOPA supporters are now scrambling to see if the bill can be altered to a form that would meet the White House objections – though most observers believe that won’t happen.

Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who is a prime mover behind SOPA, said he would remove a provision that would require American ISPs, when ordered by a court, to block access to non-US Web sites offering pirated content or counterfeit goods. The bill’s opponents say that clause could hurt the domain-name system.

Smith’s concession hasn’t placated Jimmy Wales. “We have no indication that SOPA is fully off the table,” he said in a tweet yesterday. “PIPA is still alive and kicking. We need to send Washington a BIG message.”

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