WASHINGTON: Wikipedia, which describes itself as the largest encyclopaedia in human history, has blacked out its English-language site to protest proposed US anti-piracy laws.
"Imagine a world without free knowledge," says a statement posted against a black background when one tries to access the site.
Wikipedia is opposing the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) being debated by Congress.
Jimmy Wales, who founded the site, told the BBC: "Proponents of SOPA have characterised the opposition as being people who want to enable piracy or defend piracy".
"But that's not really the point. The point is the bill is so over broad and so badly written that it's going to impact all kinds of things that, you know, don't have anything to do with stopping piracy," he was qouted as saying.
The website said it has blacked out the English version of Wikipedia for 24 hours Jan 18 to encourage readers to speak out against the two legislations.
"...if passed, (it) will harm the free and open Internet," it said.
The blackout will last 24 hours -- from midnight to midnight US Eastern Standard Time. In India, the page blacked out at 10.30 a.m. Wednesday.
The website pointed out that though the bills have been amended since their introduction, "they are still deeply problematic".
"Among other serious problems in the current draft of the bills, the requirement exists for US-based sites to actively police links to purported infringing sites.
"These kinds of self-policing activities are non-sustainable for large, global sites - including ones like Wikipedia. The legislative language is ambiguous and overly broad, even though it touches on protected speech. Congress says it's trying to protect the rights of copyright owners, but the `cure' that SOPA and PIPA represent is worse than the disease," it added.