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 1064.

    Can I point out that, unlike Jon Kelly's remarks in his comment piece, Wikipedia has not removed its pages from the internet, nor is it impossible to access them. They even tell you how to do so. The BBC's frequent factual inaccuracies are frustrating and unnecessary. Now back to the debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1063.

    SOPA is a terrible idea

  • rate this

    Comment number 1062.

    The one thing that should always be considered is that the artist should be the one whom receives due recompense for his creativity, but he/she doesn't, not because of piracy, but because of the system around them that markets their work.
    Anti-piracy laws are designed to protect that system, not the artist. There are a number of ways the artist can get around this...go straight to the public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1061.

    1011. lil_o_lady "Copyright laws have had their days.."
    Very few success artists, writers, inventors, researchers and even rock stars that would agree with that. I'm sure Damien Hirst would be happy to surrender his millions as much as Apple cares little about protecting its patents or Paul McCartney over who uses his songs. It is critical that the laws are recast to reflect the digital world!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1060.

    The new laws seem to add up to ... Freedom of Speech, as long as it doesn't impact the US economy or interests. Commercial censorship on parallel with political censorship in China.
    Anyone noticed numerous large corporate websites on a go-slow due to the amount of content no doubt cross-linked from Wikipedia, a non profit site that has been asking for donations to keep going for months now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1059.

    Ironically this kind of regulation was caused by the music companies themselves.

    Spotify could have survived as a free service and made music file sharing obsolete, but the greedy music industry demanded so much that they had to shut down the free side and make people pay. So everyone went to file sharing.

    File sharing, that's "piracy" for those of you who have been brainwashed :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1058.

    No problem, just tap the esc key when a wikipedia page loads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1057.

    Oh and if it wasnt for people hearing some of these unknown/lost songs on the net.some of these artists would have starved by now. Its only through people sifting through and finding something they like ect. We have brought albums puely through finding songs on utube and listening. As for movies, im sick of the shops ripping me off ive wasted £s buying dvds that are so poor, & cant return them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1056.

    Except that Copyright Infringement does NOT equal piracy. This term has been conveniently spread by big content, for it's highly emotive language.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1055.

    @1046.Billy Smith
    Is it only me that finds the actions by wikipedia to be frankly outrageous?

    Possibly, Billy. There are many posts on here explaining how you can still access Wikipedia. One of their points is that lageislation in America will affect the rest of the world, in same way that their protest appears to be doing. It raises awareness, globally, about the situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1054.

    I'd much prefer them to concentrate on child pornography or illegal sex acts, such as rape etc.. Then again, there's no money in that for corporate America.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1053.

    We are all trapped on a rock hurtling through space, the internet is at our fingertips and there has never been such a collection of human knowledge in centuries and never has it been easier to find similar or like-minded individuals everywhere. And with one fell swoop possibly our races greatest invention will be thrown away as the last thing in pandoras box. Hope for our species.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1052.

    I'm not particularly anti American or indeed supporting piracy but I think it's time the world stood up to the US government.

    We need to say that your laws do not apply outside the US and we will not extradite our people to face US courts in this event. After all we cannot vote for or against the US governement if we do not agree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1051.

    Sadly, because of todays Wikipedia blackout I am finding it extremely difficult to find incorrect information on the internet and have been forced to use reliable sources of information.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1050.

    Indeed locust, and you are also free to spout your bile at anything you dislike (you do it often enough). You just don't like it when people disagree with your viewpoint and you want them not to have their say, but hey, deal with it big man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1049.

    Anyone remember "Home Taping Is Killing Music"? Didn't happen, did it?

    Avatar was the most downloaded, yet most financially successful film of 2009..explain how piracy is killing anything?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1048.

    Make piracy legal. Then all the shitty musicians will be gone. There would be no more Miley Cyrus, no more Justin Bieber, no more musicians in it for the money. All we would be left with would be musicians playing because they are passionate about their music. They would make enough money from concerts and performances and sales of memorabilia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1047.

    Why has no one reaslised that this is Obama's masterplan to revive the US economy?

    In case you don't understand, just think: what are productivity levels like in offices today? They must be booming! Obama must be preying that Facebook joins the cause.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1046.

    Is it only me that finds the actions by wikipedia to be frankly outrageous? The US congress debates a bill so instead of a targeted protest they decide it would be better to make the entire planet suffer rather than congress itself. Its a joke and everyone who has agreed to participate in this are only harming innocent people who care little for the politics of Washington.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1045.

    Access to wikipedia is possible by pressing esc key as the page loads


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