By Marcus Leach

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia, have taken take their English-language site offline today (Wednesday) as part of a protest against proposed anti-piracy laws in the US.

It is one of several sites, including the Cheezburger Network, Reddit, Boing Boing, involved in the 'blackout' as a stand against the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa).

Both acts are being debated by Congress in the US, and Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, had this to say to 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."

Those in support of the Sopa say that, if pased, they will stop rogue sites getting revenue.

On Saturday the White House issued a statement that appeared to side with critics of the Acts.

"While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet," the statement said.

This would suggest that there is a chance of a veto, but it is not enough to stop the English version of the Wikipedia site closing down for the day.

"This will be the first time the English Wikipedia has ever staged a public protest of this nature, and it’s a decision that wasn’t lightly made," the Wikimedia blog said.

"The blackout is a protest against proposed legislation in the United States –the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECTIP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate– that, if passed, would seriously damage the free and open Internet, including Wikipedia.

"We don't think Sopa is going away, and Pipa is still quite active. Moreover, Sopa and Pipa are just indicators of a much broader problem. All around the world, we're seeing the development of legislation intended to fight online piracy, and regulate the internet in other ways, that hurt online freedoms."

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