Wikipedia is turning off its lights for 24 hours beginning 8 am on Wed January 18th, 2012 to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), a move that’s inspired school librarians to turn the blackout into a teaching opportunity.
“I might make a quick button that says, ‘Can’t get to Wikipedia? Ask me,’” says Cassandra Barnett, former president of the American Association of School Librarians, and a high school librarian at Fayetteville (AR) High School. “I thought, my gosh, what a perfect opportunity to talk about the subscription databases we have. Or walk over to the shelves, take a book and show them an overview of their topic where they don’t even have to log on to a computer.”
News site reddit, and blog Boing Boing will be darkening their sites as well. The blog publishing service WordPress is offering plug-ins for users to black out their blogs and Google is adding a message on its site expressing its opposition to the antipiracy legislation. (Find a list of protestors here). The collective goal is to protest the two bills, which are aimed at stopping online privacy but also potentially grant the U.S. government the ability to shut down sites that are infringing on copyrighted content. For more information on SOPA , go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Learn_more.
For school librarians the issue is of particular concern.
“It’s hard for kids to understand proprietary information and what belongs to someone else, and proper etiquette for using it. We already struggle with that and if we have to worry about someone coming down on us for that, that’s more for us to watch.”
Whether or not the blackout works to permanently squash the bills, it promises to be a learning moment. (President Obama stated Monday he would not support SOPA. PIPA is scheduled to come before the U.S. Senate January 24.)