Wikipedia joins blackout protest at US anti-piracy moves


In pictures: Sopa protests

Wikipedia Sopa protest

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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1044.

    If I'm a criminal when I link to pirated web content then surely AOL, Virgin & Murdoch's Sky are my guilty accomplices - the ISP's profit from making it possible.

    Their business model is to buy up & control everything so we have no option but to pay their inflated prices and give them the means to grab even more control. Exactly the antithesis of what the WWW could do for our collective good.

  • Comment number 1043.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1042.

    60 years ago musicians earned money by live appearances and only a pittance through royalties. Invention of tape and cd players meant people could play what they wanted and led to an explosion of sales. Its now possible to have the music and not the record, tape, cd and so they have lost income and want to put the genie back in the bottle. Well tough. Work out a different way to make money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1041.

    Yet again its the US trying to beat the whole world into doing things their way. This move by Wiki is not taken lightly and I think the Twitter decision not to join in is actually MORE foolish. This is the thin end of the wedge in.

    Remember US lawyers are trying to extradite a lad from the UK whose only crime was putting up a website with links to other sites that hosted pirated material.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1040.

    oh and why do sky charge to watch channels you can get for free on freeview and why do sky charge to watch old bbc programes we have already paid for - Y did US get epsode of tudors 1st then france/ireland & we had to wait 2yrs later!! Why does series of dr who cost £70-90!! Maybe the BBC could answer a few of these things? Piracy law makes big money for what the bigwigs encourage you to do

  • rate this

    Comment number 1039.

    you don't need a dam proxy
    - tools
    java enabled - untick

    not magic haxcker skillz

  • rate this

    Comment number 1038.

    piracy etc is theft pure and simple

    but the leftist loons on here think its ok?

    as the the internet being free - its not - its paid for and was developed at immense cost but 'you' assume its a free space to spout gibberish/bile at anything you dislike?

    sadly given societies inadequates a chance to be 'someone' in a virtual world - same people being unable to interact with real people

  • rate this

    Comment number 1037.

    Also please all be very aware that this legislation has it's roots in corruption! "According to Open Congress, these companies have paid over $21 million to make sure the legislation goes through" [].

    Absolutely nothing good will come of this. Big entertainment needs to start playing fair. Not the crazy prices they ask!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1036.

    Art and artists existed long before an economy, and they existed long before being an artist was profitable.
    We are at a point in society where everybody is not only consuming art, but producing it. The huge amount of original content on youtube, vimeo, soundcloud, bandcamp, just to name a few sites show this. In a digital medium there is no expense in distribution. So let's all just DIY.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1035.

    I have been able to see Wikipedia today using a web prozy - working fine.
    Hope this doesnt break any rules.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1034.

    @ 1019. Cousin_George

    'wikipedia... have the money and influence to appeal any court decision.'

    Are you deliberately spreading mis-information? Wikipedia are not rich, they might have influence because of the amazing service they provide/create with the net community but they are not rich. Why do you think Jimmy Wales' mug appears every year asking for donations? Wiki is not for profit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1033.

    @1026 Pammij
    You hear a song on a tv show, you google the Tv show with caption of theme or name of episode. Episode Directory can also be found via google.
    After there you have now found the song, from there you can Itunes it or Amazon or Ebay if you want a CD. Alternativley visit a music forum, post the bands name and the song. Someone else in the world will have it and provide a link. Problem?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1032.

    Goodbye copyright, we never liked you anyway!

  • Comment number 1031.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1030.


    I see you have also been brainwashed by big medias false facts. Piracy is not theft, it is copyright infringement which is an entirely different part of law......

  • rate this

    Comment number 1029.

    It's interesting that the blackout is bypassable using a simple script blocker. A lot of the sites have just added a piece of javascript at the end of their front page. Anything that stops that javascript running lets you view the page. In other words, the blackout hasn't hindered me at all.

    Something does need doing to protect copyright holders. SOPA is neither well drafted nor mature enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1028.

    I am an Indian Wikipedian, and have been active for over 3 years, not sure how I am missing this site.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1027.

    Piracy isn't theft, its illegal copying. The owner of the material hasn't physically been deprived of anything. The only way he could have lost out was if the downloader had planned to buy the product and then didn't but it still isn't theft.

    It wasn't that long ago that musician made their living from performing, now they are paid time and time again for the same piece of work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1026.

    I hear a tune on a game/tv i like i buy it off itunes sometimes you cant get it Y? If i want to get a movie on dvd i once owned on video sometimes i cant get it Y? Collecting movies the companies hold 1 of the set back WHY? pc progs never drop in price Y? software in UK twice as much as US Y? TV series/movies released 6 mths later from the rest of the world Y? thats Y theres piracy they cause it

  • rate this

    Comment number 1025.

    The problem with legislation like this is that it doesn't bear any resemblance to the supposed offense. For example, I post a link here in the comments section of the BBC web site. While it's being moderated I make sure it links to something inoffensive, then later I change what it links to to be something offending under the SOPA act. In this case, the BBC web site could be shut down!


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