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 157.

    @135 That is providing you get access to paid content. This might sound controversial but for some of us living in the other 90% of the world we do not have access to legal content which we would be happy to pay for! This leads to piracy. Provide equally destributed access to legal services and it will be individual conscious that will deter piracy, not a politically motivated legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.


    Just for you; Wikipedia.... see if any university will let you reference from it.

    The internet. Will always be there unless you have a power cut.

    A geek. Not a derogatory term unless YOU have a complex about that one out.

    PS. If by Dawkins you mean the media courting and slightly deranged should find a new hero.... ;) very sad....

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    I grew up with Hollywood connections, and over the years watched the big boys rip off and steal constantly...they're doing it as we speak, paying workers crap and demanding up to 16 hour days, stealing from writers and small film makers constantly, over and over...just watch the doc, "who needs sleep."

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    The huge irony of the MPAA's argument is that one of the biggest cartoons of all time, South Park, became huge because of file sharing.

    The biggest problem though is if these things had previously passed then the artists and writers who created things like Weebl and Bob and The Oatmeal would never be able to show their work. The best comedy writers now work on the internet, not TV.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    It comes as no surprise that Google are anti SOPA but what does surprise me is how many people will defend Google while immediately condemning anything that looks vaguely Big Brother.

    Google have all your search data, they control blogs, they control You Tube, and they even have your address visible to anyone

    But Google have a mantra of 'Do No Evil' so I guess all's well then

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Unfortunately we have people like Anna Arrowsmith hijacking government to look after her own interests and interests of her pals in the media industry.

    Freedom . . for Anna and her pompous middle class friends. .

    People like her are the ones you need to watch . . Wolf in sheeps clothing . . and all done wearing a trendy leather jacket and with a cheesy cool grin . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    @Joe Biden - The BBC covered the NDAA a couple of weeks ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    I'm an author. Some of my work gets pirated occasionally. I accept that as part of the cost of doing business. I doubt that more than 10% of what gets pirated would have been bought anyway. The remaining 90% I look on as free publicity. These new laws are so WRONG. The internet is about free speech. But more than that - this is the USA again exercising illegal extra-territorial powers. Scary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    So they’re going to push this through just before the impending strike on Iran. Hmm...

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Copyright is for way too many years. They try to copyright stuff longer than any of the original people associated with it have all died off. 20-25 years is reasonable. BTW, these so-called pirate sites provide plenty of non-copyright material that should continue to be shared even if these acts pass.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    This just shows once more the flaws of the current political system, when interests of commercial entertainment dinosaurs are enforced by the congress which is supposed to represent the public.
    Right now, protests like this one are the only way to exercise the direct, real democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    134. krokodil

    I don't know whether the best part of that post is where you substantiate you points (you don't) or display your anger and technophobia by invoking the word 'geek.'

    I think most of us take it as a compliment these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

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

    Actually it goes back to when UG the caveman sang the nice song he heard at the fire to his wife in the cave ....

    Walking out of a show whistling the theme song ... is theft of the composers Intellectual Property rights .. Piracy in Penzance!

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.


    The thrashing death throe of media conglomerate greed. They know their days are numbered and are determined, in the process, to take as much freedom away from people as possible.

    If I download music and listen to it. One of two things happens. I either never listen to it again because I don't like it. Or I buy a decent copy because MP3 is rubbish. The same goes for films.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    117. orvosalien

    It will have an effect by bringing it to the attention of the voters. People need to ask their politicians questions, hold them to account and not vote dumbly on a party line. This law has very little to do with protecting artists and everything to do with bolstering an industry which has had its day and doesn't know how to build a new business model based on DRM.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Simply disable Javascript in your browser, and the Wikipedia site works just fine !

    If you are using Firefox, go to Tools > Options > Content. Uncheck the JavaScript option to disable JavaScript.

    If you are using IE, go to Tools > Internet Options > Security. Select Internet and then the Custom level option. Under the Scripting section, disable "Active scripting".

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    I thought that dinosaurs were extinct, apparently some have lived on in human form.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    If this Bill goes ahead there should be a mass retaliatory boycott of the corporations sponsoring and paying lobbyists to support the Bill. Principle amongst them is News Corporation. It wouldn’t be difficult to organise and would receive global support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Have a look at a website called Wondermark, a site supporting the protest it is interesting to read what he says about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    In government, nothing is presented truthfully. The truth? We have no government, just paid hacks that cater to gangbankers and the financial mafia, who, incidentally, pulled the biggest heist in world history. Their crime is unforgivable. The internet is the people's voice. And it scares the crap out of sociopaths. Messes with their ability to steal and pillage.


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