Wikipedia is blacked out, as I'm sure you've already heard, and Google has placed a black bar across their logo in protest of the Stop Piracy Online Act. It is always interesting to me to see who protests certain things and to what lengths people will go to make their point. When an information repository (regardless of how accurate it may be) makes a statement along the lines of advocacy it goes beyond an editorial piece and teeters over the edge of neutrality. Once over the edge, it is a slippery slope down into full opinion with little adherence to facts.
The fact is, Wikipedia is not well known for accuracy nor does it have a great wealth of references that, when clicked on, actually take you to the material which backs up the claims made within the article. Any college professor will hand you your paper back in neatly stacked shreds if you dare use Wikipedia as a reference. It just doesn't have a good reputation even though it does try to get good information by asking for more citations and reliable sources. The explanation of why it was blacking out for 24 hours states that
"Wikipedians have chosen to black out the English Wikipedia for the first time ever, because we are concerned that SOPA and PIPA will severely inhibit people's access to online information. This is not a problem that will solely affect people in the United States: it will affect everyone around the world."
Yet, actually some editors have resigned over their consternation. The founder, Jimmy Wales, says the site can remain neutral while taking a public stand. How does that work?
Actually, the real reason behind the blackout seems to be something buried in the fourth paragraph of the QandA. "They put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites."
Why is it so horrible for owners of website to police user contributions? If a person has to jump through some hoops in order to be a contributor, all the better. That is what lends even more credibility to any site or group or information repository. Credibility is the key here, and therefore WikiCommons should be more concerned with that than with piracy. I think they just jumped to some conclusions about these bills without reading the whole.
We should want to keep shoplifting down and prosecution of it up because that is what will keep consumer prices down. Whenever someone steals a movie or music or any other creative content it isn't just copyright infringement; it is taking money from our pockets to the tune of billions of dollars every year. For example, the year Bill Clinton renewed China as Most Favored Nation, China criminals had black marketed numerous blockbuster movies costing the industry billions of dollars, and North Korean counterfeiters had dumped millions of counterfeit U.S. dollars in foreign markets.
We are paying the price of someone else's freeloading. Our DVD prices increase. Our CD prices increase. Just like retailers pass along the high cost of shoplifting on to we the consumers. I hope the bills pass. I hope prices can be stabilized. I'm not holding my breath, though.