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Wikipedia blackout: Why even supporters question anti-SOPA move

The Wikipedia blackout is intended to spotlight the value of open access to information on the Internet, but also underlies how fractious the move is, drawing fire from both critics and supporters.

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This weekend, the White House issued a statement opposing any legislation that curtails free speech, while major  entertainment companies such as Sony and Time-Warner continue to push for SOPA's passage.

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Though somewhat more conciliatory than in recent months, the Motion Picture Association of America as well as the US Chamber of Commerce came out in favor of tough anti-piracy legislation at the State of the Net conference in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. 

In statements reported by Politico, Steve Tepp, chief intellectual property counsel with the Global Intellectual Property Center, an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said at the conference that the industry is now "at a place where a provision that has generated the most consternation, the most uproar" has been removed from SOPA and PIPA. "And what we're left with is a very narrow, carefully tailored, narrowly targeted bill that addresses the worst of the worst online thieves, whether it's the Senate or the House bill"

But Mr. Tepp warned, "In order to slay this dragon, we need more than a fly swatter." 

Peter Toren, an intellectual property and computer crimes lawyer, says the two sides are dismayingly far apart. “This is more like kids throwing sand in a sandbox then two sides working together for a real compromise,” he says.

The fight will not resolve quickly or easily, says Mark Tatge, visiting professor of journalism at the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media at DePauw University. This goes to the very soul of the Internet culture and future, he says, because it sets up two  fundamentally opposing paradigms: Is the Internet a venue where people share and express ideas and is open and collaborative? Or, is it something that is controlled by corporations who decide what people should be able to view because it will bring them profits?”

Meanwhile, the list of those going dark to protest SOPA on Wednesday continues to grow. Reddit and Boing Boing will shut down and the Internet Archive has announced it will also be down for 12 hours.

With more than 20 million articles written solely by volunteers, Wikipedia is the sixth-largest site on the Web, behind only Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, and the Chinese language search engine Baidu.

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