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
    -1

    Comment number 57.

    even easier way to bypass the SOPA screen is to search it in google and click on "cached"

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 56.

    This news story has understated the impact this legislation will have if passed. If a copyright owner raises a court order to have content removed from a site it forces the liability onto the site owner, effectively making them guilty until they can prove their innocence. For smaller sites without the legal resources of the entertainment industry they are left with no option but to comply.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 55.

    #45 Agreed, What part of "a good service for a fair price" evades the big companies?

    What we currently have is "You'll pay through the nose and be thankful we allow you to"

    Piracy hasn't hurt one of the sites I shop at, who offer DRM free products, good service and a reasonable price.

    Not that piracy has much to do with these bills though, that's just the soundbyte

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 54.

    Computer boffins are putting their own grid of miniature satellites into space to avoid the 'authorities'

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16367042

    No doubt the US authorities are already working on ways to knock satellites offline.

    Just what is the US long term goal here ? To protect Hollywood from pirates ? I think not . . . just another excuse to control the net. . one day at a time

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 53.

    @27 How is piracy NOT theft? you say charging for digital content is extortion. Why? How does a person who spends many hours making a music track for example, and incurs costs in its production, see a return on it, if no one pays? if they get nothing back, then they wont make it. No one wins

    Oh, and I do support those against these bills, its not effective to stop whats going on.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 52.

    these bills are just another way for censorship without oversight. Instead of the Movie and Music industries focusing on the people who share, instead of paying for their overly-priced crap, they should focus more on the actual problem; the people who get early copies and release them on the internet. Shutting down websites isn't going to get people to buy more, they'll just buy more specifically

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 51.

    @single no kids

    piracy is a strange form of theft, whereby the object in question remains after being "stolen". What is being lost here? "Potential" revenues? How sure are you that the person, if deprived of the avenue of piracy, would actually purchase said content?. This bill does not solve that problem. It just denies access based on SUSPECTED piracy, be it a link, image, comment etc.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 50.

    The question of condoning piracy is irrelevant. This is much more to do with a) the inadequacy of the bill in stopping piracy and b) the separate dangers the bill presents. Other things aside, the mere fact that SOPA defines 'foreign' and 'domestic' sites based on domain suffix (dot com/org/net for US etc.) makes the bill damaging only to small legit sites like XKCD - pirates can work around this.

  • rate this
    -119

    Comment number 49.

    Piracy IS theft, it does not permanently deprive the owner of their property though it does deprive them of lawful earnings from that property.

    There needs to be a middle ground on this issue however I am most disappointed that Wikipedia etc have taken a political stance. They should remain politically neutral.

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 48.

    I for one approve of the protests that the various sites are undertaking. SOPA/PIPA is a threat to one of few industries with consistent growth, and has absolutely no guarantees of saving jobs, as the pirates they intend to stop can bypass them anyway. To put things in perspective, China has a heavily censored internet much like SOPA, but has the most IP violations by far in the world.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 47.

    "rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging," said Senator Chris Dodd

    Is he even aware that there has been numerous changes proposed to the bill to protect internet freedom and each one has been rejected? It is hardly surprising that the legislators proposing these bills have received funding from the media industry.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 46.

    Well done to these sites. Copyright infringement is a problem; if I spend a year making a painting to sell to feed my family, yes, I'll be annoyed if everyone starts photocopying it. The principle doesn't go away just because I'm successful. But this isn't the way to stop it.

    Isn't it a bit worrying, on top, how the American government has such control over a resource that we all depend upon?

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 45.

    @1 Single No kids
    What you Non Techies don't seem to realise is that this bill doesn't just encompass the movement of media articles but the movement of information itself. Knowledge is for the masses and information should be free? You know how to beat the pirates? Provide a better service and ask for less money. Simple enough eh?

  • rate this
    -40

    Comment number 44.

    Some nerd making money by distributing unlicenced products deserves to be extradited.

    HYS reverts to its left wing agenda.

    I think we should ask the Chinese how to control the internet.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 43.

    This is like the hanging issue. Laws had to be changes as the public would not convict with that option possible. Now the public do not support copyright, a rip off by an unnecessary bloated middle man industry. It may be mostly the young, but as we old folk drop off our perches they will run the world. Copyright is a dead concept. Sharing is modern, profiteering is old hat.

  • rate this
    +74

    Comment number 42.

    Actually, we're extraditing Richard O’Dwyer over the 2012 equivalent of telling people "there's a shop down the road handing out audio recordings of the top 40". American prisons are notoriously brutal and this guy won't survive well if he actually goes. As for SOPA it's ridiculous. It's going to affect the whole world, just so big name studios can keep their outdated business model running.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 41.

    As one does'nt download dicey content I feel this is the usual way american big business works, when they are not patenting other countries national resources like mexican beans they are using their monopoly of the internet to dictate policy in the name of the mighty dollar they are not universely popular and this is not going to help them at a time they need friends

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 40.

    The current copyright law cannot work in an age when anyone can 'copy' an idea with a right click copy paste. He has to get used to this or he has to destroy the internet as we know it and frankly the internet as it is currently (a free flow of information) is more important than his profit margin. AND it is a PROFIT margin unlike many other business' in this time of recession.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 39.

    1. single no kids

    You are right, I wouldn't steal a film from HMV. But it covers more than just movies. It covers YouTube videos and Wikipedia articles, amongst many thousands of other websites in general. It covers many things you probably take for granted on the internet.

  • rate this
    +28

    Comment number 38.

    It won't stop piracy at all, people who are that way inclined will find ways around it, as they have done for every obstacle put in their way. This will impact small start up websites that try and take on large organisations, this is why the bill has such backing from said conglomerates. Murdoch and his ilk are scared of the freedom and speed of growth the internet gives to potential competitors.

 

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