Despite rumblings from Capitol Hill that the recently-defanged SOPA legislation not see the light of day, Wikipedia has announced that "the Internet must remain free" and that it is joining the blackout protests scheduled for January 18th, nonetheless.
Founder Jimmy Wales made the announcement via Twitter today. The English-language Wikipedia site will be unavailable for for 24 hours beginning midnight EST of January 18th. Instead of entries, users attempting to access the site will be redirected to a page with the "The Internet Must Remain Free" banner above.
Wikipedia is the latest in a growing number of websites and companies, including Minecraft, Reddit, Major League Gaming, and the entire Cheezburger network, that have announced plans to suspend operations on Wednesday to raise public awareness about the SOPA and PIPA bills.
These protests, as well as vocal public opposition, may have already had an effect—on the House's bill, at least. According to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a hearing on the DNS blocking provisions has been postponed after being the Chairman was assured by SOPA's supporters that the bill would not be put up for vote until a broader consensus is reached.
Chairman Issa stated today,
While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House. Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote. The voice of the Internet community has been heard. Much more education for Members of Congress about the workings of the Internet is essential if anti-piracy legislation is to be workable and achieve broad appeal.
Chairman Issa went on to urge the House to instead adopt the competing OPEN act, which does not employ provisions that could undermine the Internet's neutrality or structure. The Senate's anti-piracy legistlation, the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, recently removed its DNS Blocking provisions but could still potentially go up for a vote within the next two weeks. [Tech Radar - TechCrunch - House Oversight Committee]
Update January 17, 2012: Google announced today that it will be joining Wednesday's anti-SOPA protest. It will not (thankfully) shut down operations but will highlight the issue on each of its homepages. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Lamar Smith, called the protests a "Publicity Stunt" and announced that SOPA hearings would resume in February. [PC Mag]