Sopa: Sites go dark as part of anti-piracy law protests

 

In pictures: Sopa protests

Wikipedia Sopa protest

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Thousands of internet sites are taking part in a "blackout" protest against anti-piracy laws being discussed by US lawmakers.

The Wikipedia encyclopedia and blogging service WordPress are among the highest profile pages to remove material.

Google is showing solidarity by placing a black box over its logo when US-based users visit its site.

The Motion Picture Association of America has branded the action as "irresponsible" and a "stunt".

Visitors to Wikipedia's English-language site are greeted by a dark page with white text that says: "Imagine a world without free knowledge... 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."

It provides a link to more details about the House of Representatives' Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and the Senate's Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa).

If users try to access its other pages via search sites, the text briefly flashes up before being replaced by the protest page. However, people have been sharing workarounds to disable the redirect.

Global protest

WordPress's homepage displays a video which claims that Sopa "breaks the internet" and asks users to add their name to a petition asking Congress to stop the bill.

"The authors of the legislation don't seem to really understand how the internet works," the site's co-founder, Matt Mullenweg told the BBC.

Across the globe, several Pirate Party sites have been taken offline. The political parties - which advocate reform of copyright laws - took the action in the UK, Spain, Sweden, Argentina, Canada and elsewhere.

Minecraft homepage Mojang, the developer of Minecraft, has replaced the game's website with a protest message

The news recommendation site Reddit, the online magazine Boing Boing, the software download service Tucows and the German hackers' group the Chaos Computer Congress also removed access to their content.

The tech news site Wired covered its headlines and pictures with black boxes which were only removed when covered with the cursor.

The US news website Politico estimated that 7,000 sites were involved by early Wednesday morning.

'Gimmick'

The moves were described as an "abuse of power" by one of the highest profile supporters of the anti-piracy bills.

"Some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging," said former Senator Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America.

"It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information... A so-called 'blackout' is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals."

The US Chamber of Commerce said that the claims against the legislation had been overstated.

"[The sponsors] announced they would roll back the provisions of these bills designed to block foreign criminal websites, striking a major conciliatory note with those who raised legitimate concerns," said Steve Tepp, chief intellectual property counsel at the chamber's Global Intellectual Property Center.

Richard Symonds, is one of the UK's 18 Wikipedia "Arbitrators": published January 2011

"That was on top of the changes that guarantee the bill applies only to foreign sites. What remains are two pieces of legislation that are narrowly tailored and commercially reasonable for taking an effective swipe at the business models of rogue sites."

The proposed legislation would allow the Department of Justice and content owners to seek court orders against any site accused of "enabling or facilitating" piracy.

Sopa also calls for search engines to remove infringing sites from their results. Pipa does not include this provision.

'Threat to innovation'

Google posted a blog on the subject claiming that the bills would not stop piracy.

"Pirate sites would just change their addresses in order to continue their criminal activities," it said.

"There are better ways to address piracy than to ask US companies to censor the internet. The foreign rogue sites are in it for the money, and we believe the best way to shut them down is to cut off their sources of funding."

Other net firms that have criticised the legislation decided not to take part in the blackout.

Twitter's founder, Dick Costolo, tweeted that it would be "foolish" to take the service offline.

Facebook declined to comment on the page blackouts but referred users to a new page posted by its Washington DC division which said: "The bills contain overly broad definitions and create a new private cause of action against companies on the basis of those expansive definitions, which could seriously hamper the innovation, growth, and investment in new companies that have been the hallmarks of the internet."

Debate

The events coincided with news that the US House of Representatives plans to resume work on Sopa next month.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith, said: "I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to send a bipartisan bill to the White House."

The Senate is expected to start voting on 24 January on how to proceed on Pipa.

Even if Congress approves the bills, President Barack Obama may decide to veto them.

The White House issued a statement at the weekend saying that "we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet".

 

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  • rate this
    +62

    Comment number 17.

    When are the dinosaurs going to die and leave us in peace to live our lives ?

    We are going to extradite a young man to the US for copyright reasons . . Yes that's right . .not child porn or terrorism . . but the 2012 equivalent of copying the Radio 1 top 40 onto an audio tape . . How ridiculous . .This country is utterly ridiculous and the laughing stock of Europe

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 16.

    @1. Piracy isn't theft. Not to say it's right, but theft is the taking of possession with the intent to permanently deprive. It takes the thing in question away. Piracy copies the thing in question - but does not deprive someone of it.
    Added to that, SOPA and PIPA are appallingly drafted, far too wide, and would cost have a massive impact on the freedom of the internet for us, as well as the US.

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 15.

    I am British. I (rightly) don't get to vote on US affairs. So to any Americans who have the vote just remember only this week your Government, in your name, seeks to arrest a UK citizen under terror laws, for something not recognised as criminal here. It isn't about freedom of information its about freedom from rendition. Both sides of the Atlantic.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 14.

    Here's hoping that Obama does the right thing and uses his Presidential veto to block it.
    If not then the rest of the world will soon find ways around anything they can do anyway.
    What happened to that constitutional thing about free speech anyhow?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 13.

    Boycott all media companies exploiting copyright and supporting this law. Never pay for their products again. No great problem to us, the end of their monopoly greed. Close them down cut off all money.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 12.

    1 - I've spent more money on music (vinyl, gigs, merchandise, hardware) as a result of piracy than I would have otherwise.
    2 - The music industry has been pinching impressionable kids pocket-money for too long - a little money-loss will humble it, hopefully.
    3 - The internet is not within America's jurisdiction.

    2p.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 11.

    SOPA's primary aim is not about stealing and piracy, its greed and more money for the fat cats which are against the freedom of the global internet.

    In perspective, although piracy is wrong, its had to believe it when Brad Pitt buys a 10th house and new child from Africa.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 10.

    One has to ask why it is that American interests are seemingly more important that what is after all a British invention. Perhaps it's time for all other countries to block US content and see how they fare then when they are cut off from the rest of the world. I suspect the M.P.A.A. would soon change their tune and stop releasing films on the net themselves, or how else do they get onto it?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 9.

    This has NOTHING to do with being pro-piracy. Only an idiot would be that. This has EVERYTHING to do with a terribly drawn up and rushed bill that will just hurt access to information. This goes through, they ban a website, okay fine, the pirates switch IP address and start up again. When you you non-techies learn that can't stamp out piracy through censorship? That road leads only to Red China.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 8.

    This has so much more to it than simple piracy, the powers this bill would give the US authorities is so wide ranging in scope that it's scary. Changing DNS records to reroute traffic as they see fit, censor or even take down entire websites on the say so of a multi national companies lawyers with no independent investigation, it's wrong.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 7.

    The real question is, when are people going to realise this isn't simply about piracy but how we ALL view, access and utilise the internet?

    No to Sopa and Pipa!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 6.

    1. single no kids.

    I'm a techie (I work for a company which builds VOD applications for broadcasters) and agree, piracy is theft. However, the provisions outlined in the SOPA legislation are equivalent of locking the front doors to HMV and not letting anyone in because there is the POTENTIAL for someone to steal a DVD. That is exactly the same as blocking a website.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 5.

    Governments are all about CONTROL. Control the masses with fear and threats to manipulate them so that they do what the governments want. This is their 'democracy'!

    The internet is liberation and freedom of information.

    Before governments preech to us about stealing maybe they should pay attention to the way they steal from their own people.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 4.

    So much for the US commitment to democracy. Lets use the law to suspend freedom of expression and filter out inoffensive free speech.

    The Tinpot Republicans behind this are an embarrassment for the US image throughout the world (although it will get approval in China).

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 3.

    To bypass the SOPA screen on Wikipedia, disable Javascript, or press F5 then quickly Esc before the SOPA screen appears.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 2.

    It's easy to get around the Wikipedia redirect -

    Just press stop after the article loads but before you get taken to the SOPA page!

  • rate this
    -49

    Comment number 1.

    When are you techies going to learn that piracy is theft?
    Most people wouldn't dream of going into HMV and stealing a DVD so why do they think its acceptable to steal a film through the medium of the internet.. The only thing that disappoints me is that Murdoch supports the bill and agreeing with him makes me want to wretch.

 

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