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 1184.

    @1178 Arnold55555
    Copyright laws have never been about the artists interests is my problem with your comment. If such why dont the artists receive the largest portion of the money from the service they provide? Most musicians or artists do what they do because they liked it, no one starts out looking to be famous. Without sites like Youtube even Beiber (who im not a fan) would not have been found

  • rate this

    Comment number 1183.

    Your argument doesn't work.
    You're not being asked to pay every time you play something, you're being asked to pay once to buy a copy of the product, then play it as much as you like.
    The opposing argument - that someone has the right to take what they like, when they like and withough paying the owner is what makes running shops so difficult these days!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1182.

    It is hard to believe that SOPA and PIPA legislation will have a profound implication on the whole world.

    If you do not abide by what the USA dictates, you had best watch out.

    Power is Globalization of information ownership.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1181.

    Ever since they changed the rules to combat piracy on Youtube you can't upload anything without it being blocked. I've given up on uploading. It will be 100 times worse with this law. Sony and Warner Bros are over the top with what they block. Ridiculous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1180.

    It is not that we disagree with SOPA - it is the involvement of gov't the US gov't that is disturbing. Also, the thought of what lies underneath or behind all of this. Lets face it, the US gov't can't get their own house in order - why would anyone think they have a solution, other than what serves them best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1179.

    One thing you have to admire about this bill. It's one thing to bring in a covert censorship bill (before you complain I know they have some copyright stuff in as an afterthought), but it's quite another to have so many people supporting it on the grounds of "Freedom of Speech".

    The people who are pushing it certainly know how to play the public

  • Comment number 1178.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1177.

    @1171 Arnold5555

    Who are the editors on this piece? I have seen this post several times and how does that even qualify as an Editors choice in news? That post is nonsensical garbage and yet it warrants an editors pick or is it for the sheer idiocy that it was selected? The fact that it has been down voted apparently means nothing

  • rate this

    Comment number 1176.

    Anyone can access scientific journals if they pay for a subscription or visit a university library or the British Library. Us scientists have to pay for subscriptions too, and as we can't afford them all but we have to have them to do our work, we all share the .pdfs I can assure you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1175.

    I LOVE & SUPPORT WIKIPEDIA. Please PLEASE do NOT establish that piece of rubbish law. GIVE A CHANCE TO WIKIPEDIA PLEASE!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1174.

    Freedom of speech is not equivalent to the freedom to take things that don't belong to you.
    Because something is possible, that doesn't mean you have to do it.
    Those who disagree with Wikipedia's action have a right to be heard as well (that IS freedom of speech).
    And Wikipedia can no longer claim to be apolitical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1173.

    Anti-piracy laws always tend to be a two edged sword; hurting the guilty and the innocent at the same time. Consider if a whistle-blowing site posts content on its site for the public to view, automatically the site will go down because the site does not own the content it published, and the owners prosecuted immediately. Alas, what a black day for the internet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1172.

    I remember when there the uproar about publishers' copyright hindering science, including biomedical research. The gov wanted more free specialist journals, allegedly, but instead gave the publishers more money from taxes to help pay for access (their original intent no doubt). However, it is hard for other people to access scientific research, which adds to public mistrust of science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1171.

    Ever wondered what copyright laws are for?

    To protect the interests of creative people, and make their output worth their while.

    SOPA is much needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1170.

    #1167 Where does ripping people off come into this? The main concern is the fact that the legislation in question works on the principle of guilty until proven innocent, and is incredible open to abuse by many parties (how many sites with public access do you think will be attacked by their competators using this law, and be guilty until they can prove themselves innocent?)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1169.

    1157Parish Spinster
    #amused by the indignation of people who're asked to pay to use other people's work#

    Fine institute that system for all. YOU pay every plumber, bricklayer, cleaner, road layer, a fee every day you use something they once worked on for the next 100 years. Every single one of any person's work they ever did that you look at, listen too or use. THEN we all have a fair system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1168.

    Apparently this is a stunt and a foolish one says the Motion Picture Association of America. The people are "bullying the politicians into doing what they want"
    Imagine that? A world where our elected officials did what their people asked them to do? A world where the government listened to the people? I don't want to live in a world of civility and reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1167.

    I'm genuinely staggered by the amount of people who are happy to rip others off, claiming its about freedom.

    Much as I hate what Murdoch stands for, its rights for him to profit off others work, if he has their agreement. Thats commerce.

    It very cute saying "cut out the middle man", but they service a requirement. Google for example is nothing more than the middleman.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1166.

    i am a european citizen and i am asking EVERY american citizen to sign the petition ! censuring internet is against plenty of human rights which humanity fought revolutions for ! these bills are only said to be protecting entertainment business (some of the richest people on the planet) in fact it is to control us ! use democracy ! now ! sign !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1165.

    Well, all politicians wants their people to be as ignorant as possible, to make his position stable.
    Stable, which is the main aim of Chinese government(also passed laws on censorship on internet), and been criticised by western medias and politicians (mainly American).
    Freedom of speech, one of the most important chips used by America to attack China, now been undermined by themselves.


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