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Way to go, Wikipedia

If you have a sudden urge today to know, say, John Lennon’s birthday or Michelle Obama’s hometown, one frequent go-to source -- Wikipedia -- will be of no help whatsoever.  The English-language version of the site is blacked out for 24 hours to protest an anti-online piracy bill that’s being considered in Congress. 

I say: Good move, Wikipedia.  It's a dramatic way to make a point that needs making.

For me (and many of my newspaper-editor colleagues), the issue is about free speech, and the message needs to be, “Don’t mess with it.”  Granted, something needs to be done to stop online piracy, but the bills now before Congress don't get the job done the right way.

By the way, the sides in the debate are being described far too simplistically.  To wit, here’s the Daily Beast’s summary: “Media companies have spent millions in support of the bills, but tech outlets say the laws will effectively censor the Internet by making companies liable for linking to pirated material.”

Not so fast.  This media company is lining up with the techies, not the movie studios and the recording industry.  And many other news organizations are doing the same.

You can read a Buffalo News editorial on the subject here.   And from Megan Garber at Atlantic Monthly, here's a fascinating peek behind the scenes at Wikipedia leading up to the blackout.

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