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 137.

    This is just a greedy attempt by big business to control a market, it's not about piracy really, it's about censorship and control over what you see, know and can freely access online.

    Nobody owns the internet, we're all part of it and that's how it should stay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    5 Minutes ago goes dark - the world's greatest blogging tool.

    Since when did Hollywood not steal from the dead or those without the means to sue them. They are the biggest plunderers of content ever.

    Anybody who reprints the words above will be sued by me..."

    Reprinted. Game on! :D

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Since various vendors started charging around 80p to download a single . . I have probably purchased more music than I actually downloaded for free when Napster was around . .
    I have certainly purchased more music than I did before the Internet existed. .

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Wikipedia is not the font of all knowledge.

    Far from it.

    This legislation is not the end of the internet.

    Far from it.

    The fact is, the internet has become a hotbed of low level criminality.

    If I make something people want and I want it to make me money, I would be upset if some geek put a copy out for everyone to steal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    The internet can't be regulated - end of.

    Piracy will always be here too. People have been copying music since tape recorders were invented.

    If you don't want your data pirated you need to come up with a way of protecting it - people will always find a way round protection though - it depends how desirable the data is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.


    But how do I know that those people would buy the release anyway!?!

    How do I know that they haven't bought it after downloading it!?!

    There is no way of telling. Its all conjecture spread by scaremongering and it has equated to this as people believe it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    20.Neil Hoskins

    *sigh* no actually Wiki are highlighting the fact that this law will be GLOBAL and that it is unfair for one country to unilaterally pass laws which will have an impact on the whole world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    @ian bluenose

    it simply does not work like that; people are willing to give you money if you charge a reasonable fee and don't present them with an inefficient format. This man made a million dollars in a very short space of time and all he did was say, 'it'd be nice if you paid me.'

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    "97. Vladimir Tepes
    the act of robbery on the high seas.etc"

    piracey an good emotive word .. that is why vested interests use it.. sounds so much more wrong than "Illegal Distribution of Copyright Material"

    So lets start desexying there slogans

    "Illegal Distribution of Copyright Material" is theft
    Copying music to a DVD for your mates is "Illegal Distribution of Copyright Material"

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    As far as I can see, the sole reason for these acts in the USA is to prevent free passage of information.

    In reality, its more about Wikileaks and its ilk than movies and music.

    The USA has always been the smiling villain, now she's not smiling so much, but it's surprising that so many still think she's not the villain.

    Fear the USA; it is everything it says it opposes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    78 mattintheuk - actually plagiarism IS copyright infringement - a particular type of copyright infringement. So the original poster was correct in saying reposting something with slightly different words is copyright infringement.

    (Signed) A. Pedant

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    121. Say if you are a musician with no record label etc and you want to become known you allow people to download you music and reupload to youtube, essentially the artist becomes more well known, look at Golden State and aimee allen. The music artists themselves are against this bill too because of its restrictions so wise up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Why do Wikipedia think its bigger than congress. If Wiki think that the blackout will make congress believe that Wiki is bigger than congress, then Wiki have delusions of grandeur. Considering the factual content on Wikipedia, their blackout is misleading.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Pirates will use a thousand different arguments all of which can be distilled to "I want it all for free"

    Digital media producers have one argument "I deserve to be paid for my work"

    If the consumer doesn't want to buy, that's their prerogative, but it doesn't mean they should be able to take it anyway and offer it to others with impunity. This part of internet culture needs to change

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Protecting your rights is one thing. Having new laws that are so badly worded that they are a governments dream as a weapon against sites for political reasons is another.

    In American politics money talks and to hell with anyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    don't like that it's "foreign criminals" doing all the piracy i'm sure there's plenty of americans which download music for free

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    No 100. Are you seriously trying to tell everyone that you would be happy for someone to pirate all your work, and that of other artists on your small label, publish it for free - or a fee - on the internet and deny you your income and ruin your business? I am not equating piracy with sales, but I am equating piracy with the theft of the rightful earnings of people like you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120. goes dark - the world's greatest blogging tool.

    Since when did Hollywood not steal from the dead or those without the means to sue them. They are the biggest plunderers of content ever.

    Anybody who reprints the words above will be sued by me. They are not free and they are my copyright. I only give the BBC the right to publish them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    In order to stop bad things or bad people from destroying Western civilisation, the only solution is to give a tiny minority of powerful Americans the right to incarcerate anyone they dislike, for as long as they wish, with as little publicity or scrutiny as possible, and to allow them to fully control all electronic media, just as they have controlled news and tv in the past. Why all the fuss?

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    SOPA/PIPA won't work as currently designed. Follow the trends in technology and you should know that file sharing (and piracy) will continue to grow. Businesses and all stakeholders should come up with systems that will stop people from copying/stealing their work NOT ban everyone from accessing whatever the internet has to offer. Let the apostles of SOPA waste all the time and then see it fail


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