Are You Scared of the Dark? Lights out Wikipedia

It’s all anyone can talk about this week: the Wikipedia  black out.  The largely famous internet encyclopedia turned out the lights in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), two bills designed to fight online piracy of copyrighted material. Wikipedia, which features more than 20 million articles, is just one of many sites choosing to go ‘lights out’ for 24 hours.

Both bills are backed by the film and music industry, but have drawn considerable criticism for the burden they place on search engines. U.S.advertising networks could also be required to stop online advertising. Co-Founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales says the bills threaten the future of the Internet.

Walesjoked in one tweet, “Student warning! Do your homework early.” As public relations intern, I can’t help but think that many students aren’t going to laugh this tweet off. In my generation students have coined Wikipedia as their safe-haven; a reliance that gets them through their most dreaded research papers.  

It makes you wonder about the value of encyclopedias today, the ones that you go to the library for and manually flip through the pages. Does anyone know what that’s like? To answer that question, some college professors and even departments have banned the use of Wikipedia in their classrooms, forcing students to seek refuge in traditional encyclopedias and other long-established sources. Yes, that may mean trudging to the library in the dead of winter or taking a bit more time in an online search. But practice makes perfect because you never know; the lights may be out longer next time.   



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