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This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.
On January eighteenth, Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, blacked out its English language website for twenty-four hours. The move was part of an organized protest against a proposed United States law to fight illegal copying of intellectual property on the Internet.
Jay Walsh is head of communications for the Wikimedia Foundation which operates Wikipedia. He says the legislation "is detrimental to the free and open Web. It's detrimental to Wikipedia. And we want to make sure that we send a message."
The blogging site Boing Boing and social news website Reddit also went black. Erik Martin, the general manager of Reddit, said: "This is a really big deal and this is something we're going to fight, and this is something we think threatens the entire tech sector."
Both Wikipedia and Reddit urged users to contact their congressional representative. Internet search leader Google also protested, although it continued to provide service.
The protest was against two bills -- the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA. PIPA is the Senate version; SOPA is the version in the House of Representatives. Supporters say the law is needed to fight foreign websites that sell pirated copies of American movies and music.
Steven Tepp is a lawyer with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He says piracy of books, music, movies and other forms of intellectual property hurt the economy. "These rogue sites are hurting American jobs, stealing American jobs, they're harming American consumers and they have no business being on the Internet."
But many online businesses including blogs, news sites and search engines say the law would force them to become censors.
David Smith is with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. He says the proposed law would hurt Wikipedia and other sites that depend on material from users of the sites. He says websites would be required to police all the material they carry. "It creates a legal situation in which a complainant can go before a judge and get an order, and it then makes the various Internet companies, the Internet service providers, responsible for what they're carrying."
After the online protests, some lawmakers said they now had doubts about the legislation. The bills appeared unlikely to pass without changes. The Obama administration said it opposes any law that reduces freedom of expression or increases cyber security risk.