How to Survive SOPA Blackout Day

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Wikipedia announced this week that it will go black on Wednesday in protest of two proposed pieces of anti-piracy legislation that critics say would cripple the Internet as we know it. The two bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, would effectively allow copyright holders to shut down websites that host or link to copyright-infringing content. Accordingly, they have come under heavy criticism from tech companies who fear that the law would place an undue burden on them by forcing them to police all user-generated content that appears on their sites.

The torrent of criticism has already dimmed prospects for the bills, with the Obama administration warning that “Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small.” And the bills’ sponsors have already agreed to remove the controversial DNS-blocking provision, which would force Internet service providers to cut the connection between Web addresses and websites. Still, as Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner noted in a statement, “The reality is that we don’t think SOPA is going away, and PIPA is still quite active.”

In deciding to black out the English-language version of its site, Wikipedia joins popular social news site Reddit, which decided last week to implement a 12-hour blackout in protest of the bills. The Cheezburger Network, a network of comedy and news blogs, will likewise go black Wednesday to raise awareness of the bills.

Taken together, that’s two of the Internet’s most popular time-wasters, plus a site that millions of students depend on for research. So once you’ve heard what the sites have to say about online censorship, what are your alternative online destinations for the day?

For Wikipedia, the answer is simple: more Wikipedia. While there are plenty of subject-specific wikis to fall back on (for Star Wars facts, check out Wookieepedia), there are still ways to access Wikipedia’s database of facts. As we reported last week, it’s actually possible to download the entirety of Wikipedia’s database for offline browsing so you can browse to your heart’s content while the site is offline. (Just note that the smallest version of the database will take up 31 GB of space, which means it will take a while to download.) Finally, keep in mind that only the English Wikipedia will be offline, so there’s nothing to stop you from going to, say, the Spanish-language Wikipedia and using Google’s translation service to get a rough version of the article.

So what about alternatives to Reddit and the Cheezburger sites? For viral news and links, you could check out such sites as Metafilter, Buzzfeed and Fark, or simply go on the popular social networks to see what people are talking about. For all-purpose discussion forums on everything from cat pictures to recipes, there are the Something Awful forums (which require a $10 registration to actively post). And to simply browse funny or notable images, you could always go on Imgur, an image-hosting site.

Or you could, you know, actually do work. It’s up to you.

Matt Brownell is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by email at matthew.brownell@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter @Brownellorama.

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