Wikipedia joins blackout protest at US anti-piracy moves


In pictures: Sopa protests

Wikipedia Sopa protest

Related Stories

Wikipedia has taken its English-language site offline as part of protests against proposed anti-piracy laws in the US.

Users attempting to access the site see a black screen and a political statement: "Imagine a world without free knowledge."

The user-generated news site Reddit and the blog Boing Boing are also taking part in the "blackout".

However, Twitter has declined to join the shutdown.

Wikipedia, which attracts millions of hits every day, is opposed to the US Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa) being debated by Congress.

The legislation would allow the Justice Department and content owners to seek court orders requiring search engines to block results associated with piracy.

The site's founder, Jimmy Wales, told the BBC: "Proponents of Sopa have characterised the opposition as being people who want to enable piracy or defend piracy".

"But that's not really the point. The point is the bill is so over broad and so badly written that it's going to impact all kinds of things that, you know, don't have anything to do with stopping piracy."

The message replacing the normal Wikipedia front page on the internet says: "For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopaedia in human history. Right now, the US Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia."

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales: ''These bills are very badly written''

The site was still available on mobile phones, however. also joined the protest, blacking out its logo and linking to an online petition urging Congress to not censor the web.

Veto hint

It is an unprecedented protest, says the BBC's Steve Kingstone in Washington. Analysts say it is the first major test for the young and disorganised internet industry against powerful media interests with many lobbyists in Washington.

Sopa's supporters in the House of Representatives say the legislation is designed to stop revenue flowing to "rogue websites". A similar bill, Pipa, is making its way through the US Senate.

On Saturday the White House issued a statement that appeared to side with critics of the legislation.

It said: "While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet."

Sopa and Pipa explained

The US bills are designed to block access to sites containing unauthorised copyright material.

Content owners and the US government would be given the power to request court orders to shut down sites associated with piracy.

Advertisers, payment processors and internet service providers would be forbidden from doing business with infringers based overseas.

Sopa also requires search engines to remove foreign infringing sites from their results, a provision absent in Pipa.

Despite the hint of a presidential veto, Wikipedia said that the English site's administrators had decided to stage its first ever public protest because the bills "would be devastating to the free and open web".

It added: "We don't think Sopa is going away, and Pipa is still quite active. Moreover, Sopa and Pipa are just indicators of a much broader problem. All around the world, we're seeing the development of legislation intended to fight online piracy, and regulate the internet in other ways, that hurt online freedoms."

However, when asked whether Twitter would join the blackout, its chief executive, Dick Costolo, tweeted: "Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish."

In a Twitter conversation with Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales, Mr Costolo later clarified that his comment was not meant to be read as a "value judgement" about other organisations involvement in the action.

The anti-piracy legislation still has high-profile supporters including News Corporation's chairman, Rupert Murdoch.

Twitter chief executive's tweet A message by Twitter's chief executive sparked off a conversation with Wikipedia's founder

Over the weekend he tweeted: "So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery."

He later added: "Seems like universal anger with Potus [President of the United States] from all sorts of normal supporters... Whole entertainment industry employs 2.2 million [on] average salary $65,000. Good jobs and expanding foreign earnings. Made in America, too!"

Sites taking part in the shutdown went offline for 24 hours from midnight Eastern Standard Time (05:00 GMT) on Wednesday.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1024.

    Post 9/11, Americans continue to merrily give away their freedoms. Won't be belong before we are 'the land of the free' in name only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1023.

    One thing to seriously consider is that the internet is the greatest communication exchange developed by humankind. It allows the flow of ideas (which his what songs and films are) with incredible ease, similarly it supports the comms which topple corrupt regimes.

    They aren't going to be able to protect the old model of IP without damaging the net. Either the net goes or IP as we know it goes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1022.

    @1013 Mostly_harmless

    I don't know about you but the sacrifice of freedom of knowledge and the ability to share ideas like Polymath universal expansion or Memes or even getting musicians, artists the kind that draw, graphics designers and programmers up on the net showing what they can do is worth a few pirated songs or movies. People are appreciated for their skills, not what you deny them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1021.

    Imagine if your job was devalued because anything that you produced was downloaded or pirated
    But that is exactly what has happened to many jobs, especially in the IT area. Cheap labour brought in by big companies in order to suppress wages. £30 p.h. 10 yrs ago = £10 p.h. now. I've had to take a hit, why not them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1020.

    Of course, websites like Wikipedia are within their rights to blackout their pages. They are simply exercising their intellectual property rights which are basically the same rights the bills are attempting to protect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1019.

    So does Wikipedia support piracy now?
    The legislation may mean that sites could potentially be shut down but massive sites such as the google (who shouldn't have links to piracy anyway), wikipedia and the social networking sites have the money and influence to appeal any court decision. Piracy needs to be stomped out for good and any measures against it are a step in the right direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1018.

    The legislation goes too far - this is the argument, these sites are not defending piracy.

    The likes of Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, even Twitter could be shut down on a whim because one user has inadvertently linked to a site that may also host pirated material. The site linked to doesn't even have to be guilty of hosting illegal material - it only has to be suspected of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1017.

    It's a quaint myth non-creative types hold that author's/ musician's bread and butter comes from on-line sales, and, "piracy" eats into those sales. It's a false argument. Rupert Murdoch makes his living selling other people's work on-line. 99% of struggling artists can't. No one willingly gives up a monopoly. What we're seeing is the death cries of those who've gotten rich on other's hard work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1016.

    This debate has nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of piracy.

    It is about passing a law with too many catch alls ...

    To combat knife crime a new law allowing any one caught in possession of a knife to be detained until they prove in court that they have a legal use for the knife....
    In this case a US Court, and how many knives are in your cutlery draw?
    Good idea, poor implementation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1015.

    I've recently started up a Technology company with a Web presence and seeing the powers being given to big-corp content distributers is scary:
    - They can destroy small internet companies without even proving anything in a court of law

    Then the UK-US extradition treaty means you can end up in a US jail for content a user posts in your site

    I'm seriously considering returning to Holland

  • rate this

    Comment number 1014.

    Wikipedia is not completely shut down. You can still view all content by turning off java script in your browser. It explains this on the same page showing the reasons for the 'switch off'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1013.

    Imagine if your job was devalued because anything that you produced was downloaded or pirated, would you do your work for free ? Essentially this is what we are talking about.
    People need to start to pay for what they watch, listen to etc and no other arguement is valid. Just because something digital can be downloaded, why does that make it ok for it to be free without the owners knowledge?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1012.

    I agree with squid_fish (998). I used to pirate music, films, and video games, back when I wasn't earning, and they costed more. Nowadays, I subscribe to spotify, rent films from lovefilm, and buy my games on steam. Find the right pricing point and you'll defeat piracy - you can't legislate it away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1011.

    Copyright laws have had their days. They are a money grab, and thanks to the internet, they're as unenforcable as were the laws of the prohibition period in the USA. For thousands of years artists have created art for the purpose of sharing it with others. Some phenomenal pieces of art were created, without copyright laws... and they will continue to be created when copyright laws are gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1010.

    What about the global didtribution of pornography via American billing companies? I take it that is alright because there is money in it. The fact that they are making it available in countries where it is entirely illegal doesn't matter at all does it? There's money in it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1009.

    992. Sooty - your comments are spot on

    You may be interested to know that nieuw divil gets something for nothing as he lives abroad, pays no UK tax and does not buy a TV license from where this site gets its funding. He is then, by his own standards, a 'terrorist'.

    My concern is the US law will be another one way street which disadvantages the rest of the world but not the USA itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1008.

    Most artistes - composers musicians and singers - earn less than the national average. Even well known artistes don't earn anywhere near enough to keep them in their old age. The income of these people must be protected.
    I have no interest in the mega corporations or protecting their income but thieving from artistes - which is exactly what piracy is - must be stopped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1007.

    This legislation is written by scum for scum, simple as that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1006.

    I'm a multiple forum owner and admin, and even though I don't support piracy, I'm still concerned by how far this could go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1005.

    What Amazes me is that these people are so old and one of them admits quite openly he has no idea what the internet is but is prepared to stand against wrongdoings therefor piracy is wrong. How people can vote on something they know nothing about is shocking in todays society, but what do I know? I'm British and dont have the "Money Solves everything" card


Page 9 of 60


More Technology stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.