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Protests against SOPA (America’s Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (the Protect Intellectual Property Act) have kicked up a gear today. (not the UK version of the site, though) has blacked out its logo and provided a link to an anti-SOPA online petition on its front page.

And Wikipedia has gone a step further, bringing down a total blackout on its site today.

Should you visit the font of contributor provided internet wisdom to look up something, you’ll find that’s not possible for the next 24 hours. There’s a stark black holding page presented to you instead.

This is entitled “Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge”, referring to the fact that the SOPA and PIPA legislation will result in curtailed net freedoms.

The site comments underneath: “For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.”

SOPA is being pushed by the music and film industries (and software) as a way of protecting their copyrighted material and maintaining employment levels in said sectors.

However, the legislation is badly organised and proposes some overreaching powers which will have a number of negative effects on the internet globally, and free speech on the web.

With critics arguing that it won’t successfully protect movie and music IP anyway.

SOPA puts the emphasis on website owners policing their own user contributed content and links, at great cost, with blocking measures to be put in place on sites which fail to meet these requirements – including foreign, not just US websites.

Wikipedia notes smaller sites won’t be able to defend themselves and will be driven out of business. Internet start-ups will also be affected, with venture capitalists noting they’d be far less likely to invest, thus web entrepreneurs could become a much rarer breed.

Which obviously won’t help our currently ailing global financial situation, given that the digital economy is very much a big part of our future.

A fact the film industry would do well to realise, and begin positive moves to try and provide more online content – new distribution models and methods – rather than looking backwards and trying to fight a fire which realistically can’t be extinguished anyway.

The Obama administration has actually spoken out against SOPA in its current form, particularly the DNS blocking provision, which has effectively killed that side of the legislation off.

However, Wikipedia notes that the bill is still very much alive and due to be brought back up for debate next month, and even without the DNS measures it’s still a very dangerous and loosely targeted piece of work.

Many other high profile sites such as Twitter and Yahoo have raised their voices against the legislation, but haven’t taken any concrete action today with Google and Wikipedia.

You might recall at the start of the month, we wrote an article about the fact that Firefox’s search deal with Google was up for renewal.

This is the agreement whereby Google is the default search engine in Mozilla’s browser, a privilege which the big G pays handsomely for.

While this is naturally a whole lot of surfers which are directed to Google, it’s a far more important deal to Mozilla, as the money the search engine stumps up represents the majority of Firefox’s income. 85% of it, in fact.

So the theory was put forward by some that if Google wanted to sink Firefox in order to push its Chrome browser higher still, it could turn Mozilla down and devastate Firefox’s income.

This hasn’t happened though, as we guessed it wouldn’t, with the news today that a renewal has been agreed. The deal will run over the next three years, although no specific details were revealed.

There are a number of reasons why Google didn’t exercise the option to try and capsize Firefox in 2012. Firstly, because it makes money from this agreement too, albeit not a critical sum like Mozilla.

Secondly, spurning Firefox could have led to Mozilla striking deals with Bing and Yahoo, strengthening its search rivals over the coming year. Granted, they’re not exactly breathing down Google’s neck (ankle, more like), but even so…

And then there’s the fact that Google’s Chrome is gaining market share rapidly anyway, with Firefox drifting downwards as it is. This situation seems likely to continue – it’s been the story of 2011 – so there’s no real need to force Chrome’s advance anyway.

Mozilla, however, will doubtless be breathing a sigh of relief at having signed up for another three years of cashflow from the Google coffers.

At the close of 2014, the browser world is likely to be very different. Some already see Chrome as the primary challenger to Internet Explorer, with one analyst firm, StatCounter, estimating Chrome now has a bigger market share than Firefox.

Net Applications, however, doesn’t agree and still has Firefox in second place, 4% ahead of Chrome.