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Wikipedia 24 hour black out – a protest against SOPA and PIPA

January 17th, 2012

Wikipedia has announced that it will be holding a 24 hour blackout for its English language site from 05.00 UTC on Wednesday, January 18. You can read the statement from the Wikimedia foundation here and press release here.

The statement confirms: “In an unprecedented decision, the Wikipedia community has chosen to blackout the English version of Wikipedia for 24 hours, in protest against proposed legislation in the United States – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and PROTECTIP (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States.”

This means that on Wednesday any visitors to Wikipedia (There are believed to be around 100 million English-speaking Wikipedia users) will only have access to an open letter encouraging them to contact the U.S. Congress (or local authority outside of the U.S.) in protest.

Some have said that the blackout is unnecessary because a major target of the protest, SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act), has already been halted by opposition from the White House, but Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, said the blackout would go ahead anyway, by tweeting: “PIPA is still extremely dangerous,”

PIPA (or the Protect Intellectual Property Act), is still under consideration by the Senate, and has stirred many of the Web’s vocal commentators into action. Jimmy Wales also tweeted.

This is going to be wow. I hope Wikipedia will melt phone systems in Washington on Wednesday. Tell everyone you know!”

“My goal is to melt switchboards!,”

“We have no indication that SOPA is fully off the table. We need to send Washington a BIG message.”

The user-generated news site Reddit and the blog Boing Boing have also said they will take part in the blackout.

So why such a response to the acts? Well, SOPA and PIPA plan to impose responsibilities on websites such as Wikipedia to check that no material they host infringes copyright. Under current laws if websites remove pirated content when they are notified by the copyright holder they are not liable for damages.

The proposed laws also make it easier for American copyright holders to cut off access to foreign websites hosting unlicensed copies of films, music and television programs, which has recently been evidenced by the case of an English student, Richard O’ Dwyer, who is accused of creating a website that provided links where people could illegally access film and documentary material.

He now faces 10 years in jail for operating a website that U.S. authorities say hosts links to copyrighted material after a judge ruled that the 23 year old can be extradited to the US.

He is arguing that under the so-called dual criminality rule, since he has not been charged for an offence in the UK, the US has no right to extradite him.

The U.S. SOPA and PIPA legislation has been backed by major media owners, including Rupert Murdoch, and opposed by the giants of Silicon Valley, including Google and Facebook.

On Friday the White House said it would not approve key parts of the SOPA bill, which means it will need to be re-written and proposed. A statement from the Whitehouse said the provisions for blocking foreign websites “pose a real risk to cyber security“. And later confirmed : “Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small,”

This brought a reaction from Rupert Murdoch over the weekend, who called Google a ‘piracy leader‘ and suggested ‘Barack Obama had thrown his lot in with Silicon Valley Paymasters’, to which Google replied:

“This is just nonsense. Last year we took down 5 million infringing web pages from our search results and invested more than $60 million in the fight against bad ads.

“Like many other tech companies, we believe that there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking US companies to censor the Internet.”

Further information on the Wall Blog.

Jimmy Wales has urged us to take action: “Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation.

“This is an extraordinary action for our community to take – and while we regret having to prevent the world from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world.

“We urge Wikipedia readers to make your voices heard. If you live in the United States, find your elected representative in Washington (https://www.eff.org/sopacall). If you live outside the United States, contact your State Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs or similar branch of government. Tell them you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and want the internet to remain open and free.”

There is an argument to say Wikipedia should remain impartial, but this is very difficult when its core focus will be so badly affected by the proposed legislation, and I support its stand to raise awareness of the issues.

To get further detail, pleased read the Telegraph’s overview of the story

Or the BBC has a good round-up.

Mashable also offers a good run down of the U.S. Government’s position.

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Who is winning the News of the World readership race?

July 22nd, 2011

As the News of the World scandal rolls on leaving egg, or at least shaving foam, in some people’s faces, I wanted to take a moment to see who is benefiting from the demise of the UK’s largest Sunday paper, other than footballers and celebrities of course.

Last Sunday (July 17th) was the first Sunday without the News of the World in over 160 years, and that left 2,667,428 (accordingly to the June ABC figures) looking for a new paper to read.

According to the Guardian, the biggest winners in the NoW reader race were its fellow red tops, mainly The Sunday Mirror and Daily Star Sunday, which launched nationwide TV adverts, along with others such as The People and Mail on Sunday that grabbed as many of those wandering NoW readers as they could.

The Sunday Mirror is thought to have gained almost 730,000 extra sales compared with the previous weekend, increasing sales by 60% to 1.9m copies.

The Daily Star Sunday more than doubled its week-on-week circulation to just over 1m, using the opportunity to launch a new magazine, OK! Extra.

The Sunday Express rose more than 25% to about 700,000, but unsurprisingly, The Sunday broadsheets gained little according to unofficial industry figures, the Sunday Times had a 2.8% sales lift, with the Independent on Sunday up 3%, and the Sunday Telegraph up just more than 3%. The Observer saw a 6% sales rise.

The overall newspaper market was down by about 5% week-on-week on Sunday, showing that the NoW readers are out there looking for an alternative. They haven’t given up just yet. So all in all it was a good week for the Sunday paper sales.

But what of The Mail on Sunday, which many thought would capture the highest percentage of former NoW readers? It jumped about 30% to sales of about 2.6m, however that’s not the end of this tale.

Rumours of new Sunday paper launches have been rife since the end of the News of the World and it appears Associated Newspapers (Publishers of the Daily and Sunday Mail) may be planning a Sunday tabloid of their own in line with NoW readership to capitalise on this wealth of available readers.

Furthermore, probably the worst kept secret in Sunday paper industry is that News International is planning to launch the Sun on Sunday and this is expected to take place in August to coincide with the launch of the new Premier League football season, and therein lies one of the big selling points. Yes the scandal, racy stories and celebrity puff from the NoW was a big part of its success, but its sport coverage, especially in terms of football and the holy grail of red top sport coverage – football gossip – was and remains unrivalled by any of its competitors.

The Sun on Sunday has the opportunity to steam roller back through the market in a matter of weeks and take the NoW readers back in very much the same way unless its soon to be competitors can launch a sustained attack on this important market segment. I agree the lifecycle of celebrity media and red top tattle will come to an end and the signs are there, but not yet. Because like it or not, scandal, celebrity and football sells in the Sunday Red Top market.

I can see the Sun on Sunday picking up where the NoW left off in terms of readers, if not approach,  within a few months of launch unless the Mirror, Star and People, as well as potentially the Mail on Sunday do something different to bring in these readers.

My hunch is it will be a case of the King is dead, long live the King when August comes and the football season kicks off.

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