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.


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."


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

    Comment number 37.

    If Wikipedia are defenders of copyright, as claimed by Jimmy Wales, I wonder why the National Portrait Gallery have sought redress for a Wikipedian using dubious means to take their high resolution pictures which are copyright in the UK and place them on American servers - and have British Wikipedians describing UK copyright law as odious because it seeks to protect some works that the US doesn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I would have liked to have seen the major social network sites join in the blackout. The world could do with a day off

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    An open internet for an open world. No SOPA or PIPA!

    Nice to see the BBC posting this _very_ worthy technology news item as top billing!

    Something we all should be aware of, this could affect us all...not just the USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    18. The internet needs policing.... end of.

    The sky is yellow....

    Saying something does not make it right!. SOPA is an attempt to control freedom of expression not just in the US but across the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    @single no kids Piracy is theft. But asking all websites to monitor every outgoing link for copyrighted content is something which only huge companies will afford to do. Piracy needs to stop, but this bill will send money in to the hands of lawyers, the MPAA and the RIAA, not companies who care about creativity and innovation. The Anti-Piracy laws totally miss their target.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    It's not about stealing films off the internet. I have videos on youtube of buskers singing, according to this new act those videos would not be my copyright because of the songs they are singing, doesn't matter that I took the film or that paying copyright should be an issue with the busker, not whoever films them. Please read some of the reasons the blacked out sites are protesting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    SHARING is not the same as STEALING. If I bought a CD or DVD and want to share it with my family and my friends, that should not be crime, and the same thing happens in a community that wants to SHARE the books, or music or pancake recipes or ideas... the problem with SHARING is that it doesn't generate revenue for the big corporations!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    This isn't a matter of techies not wanting to comply with copyright law but that its just a fruitless task for ISPs to block the sites. Depending on how they are blocked the site could re-appear within minutes of them being blocked elsewhere on a different domain and broadcast via social networks that they have moved, then the whole process starts again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    once again america use a cannon to break a walnut.
    the single biggest threat to this planet is america, not everything it states to protect us from!
    I would say that America's war on terror created more terrorists than prevented it. Don't even get me started on NDAA 31, the right to lock up civilians for life without charge!

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Senator Dood has a lot of nerve to be making accusations of "abuse of power".

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    How is piracy theft? Charging for digital content is extortion! How can there be a price on something in a free market, if supply is unlimited?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Copying of IP is certainly NOT theft. A thief not only uses something, but also deprived its owner (and everyone else) from using it. This is certainly not the case here.

    A simple solution exist: do the same revenue sharing scheme which is now in use for radio and TV. The current proposal would do nothing to stop piracy, only harass the innocent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I don't condone piracy but there must be better ways of achieving copyright protection.
    People have had enough of big brother pushing it's snout into something which was a gift, freely given, to the people by it's inventor!
    The real problem is, people no longer trust authority to act without bias because we all know how big brother works....Start with little bites and slowly eat the whole cake!

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I support them. The corporations are trying to get these laws to force action upon soft targets who are doing nothing wrong instead of chasing the culprits themselves.

    Any work ISPs have to do to block sites etc will have a cost and that cost will be passed on in the only way they can - which is to their customers.

    The real answer is: music, film etc needs a new business model/pricing structure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Wikipedia: press escape before the page is fully loaded (or disable javascript)

    Other sites: use the google cache.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.


    This has NOTHING to do with being pro-piracy. Only an idiot would be that

    Err, I'm pro-piracy and I'd like to think I'm not an idiot.

    See Phil's comment (#12) - His second and third points are correct but it's his first that rings most true. I'll buy the vinyl and see the gigs if I like the stuff I've pirated first, which is money to the band they wouldn't have otherwise had.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    This is just an excuse for the us government to shut down any sites that may "annoy" them such as wikileaks which did an excellent job in revealing what america was ACTUALLY doing in afghanistan and iraq. Good job wikipedia but I think twitter and facebook should join the battle, that would make the us government scared.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    By taking the whole English-speaking world offline due to a domestic dispute in the USA, Wikipedia have given us a wake-up call that they are a dangerous American cult and we should not become too reliant on them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I considered joining my 2 major sites to the protest, but as I hold 'Information be like muck, no use except it be spread' as a guiding principle, decided that they would remain open.

    If someone commits copyright violation or incites a criminal act, pursue them through civil or criminal courts as appropriate... but the freedom of the Internet must remain inviolate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    The internet needs policing.... end of.


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