Jan 20 - Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales tells Reuters TV that the blackout staged by the online encyclopedia over proposed anti-piracy legislation was effective in pressuring U.S. politicians. Matt Cowan reports.
Oxford University is a long way from Washington D.C. but proposed U.S. anti-piracy legislation - which has since been postponed - has been the subject of energetic debate here too. SOUNDBITE: JIMMY WALES, WIKIPEDIA FOUNDER SAYING (English): "Hollywood is very concerned about the problems of piracy. They are unfortunately in my view quite prone to exaggerating the size of the problem." It is something of a coincidence that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales was here to help launch of an online campaign called Free Speech Debate a day after his site was blacked out as part of an effort to generate debate about free speech...But following the blackout, Wales was happy to shed light on his views. SOUNDBITE) (English) JIMMY WALES, WIKIPEDIA FOUNDER SAYING: "My view is that the solution to this can't start with thinking about ways of censoring the internet, thinking about ways to block access to things. First of all it's completely hopeless, the internet just doesn't work that way." Oxford Professor Timothy Garton Ash explains why U.S. legislation is the focus of such attention so far away. SOUNDBITE: TIMOTHY GARTON ASH, OXFORD PROFESSOR OF EUROPEAN STUDIES SAYING: (English): "Everybody gets their knowledge online. Everybody who's online - which is two billion people - gets their knowledge online and a lot of it comes from sites which is basically first amendment U.S. jurisdiction. So the whole of Wikipedia, Google.com. So what America does impacts on the whole world." Wales admits shuttering a repository of free knowledge in order to take a stand about free speech is somewhat counterintuitive, but he also says it's been effective. SOUNDBITE) (English) JIMMY WALES, WIKIPEDIA FOUNDER SAYING: "On a normal day, 25 to 30 million people would come to English Wikipedia but we had over 160 million people check out what was going on. We had over eight million people in the U.S. look up the phone number for their Congressman. We don't know how many actually called but the reports we heard back from Capitol Hill was that they were swamped. The House phone system went down at one point so that was exciting." And by the end of the week, the politicians back in Washington decided it wasn't the right time to proceed with the Stop Online Piracy Act. Shelving the bills indefinitely. Matt Cowan, Reuters.