Thousands of websites offline to protest SOPA, PIPA

Reference librarians are on high alert Wednesday as Wikipedia, the 6th biggest website on Earth, is offline along with thousands of smaller websites.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales explains why he's pulling the plug. (AP Photo)

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales explains why he's pulling the plug. (AP Photo)

The “free encyclopedia anyone can edit” is among the many websites joining an online revolt against two anti-piracy bills currently being considered by Congress.

Other sites joining the protest Wednesday include Reddit, Wordpress, MoveOn, Boing Boing and Twitpic.

On Twitter, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said “I hope Wikipedia [users] will melt phone systems in Washington on Wednesday. Tell everyone you know!”

The anti-piracy bills, dubbed SOPA and PIPA, are backed by the film and music industry and are allegedly designed to prevent the sharing of copyrighted material.

Opponents of SOPA read like a who’s who of the Internet. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn wrote a letter to key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, saying SOPA poses “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.”

The Obama administration recently issued a statement saying new laws that protect “intellectual property online must not threaten an open and innovative Internet, ” which sounds like the threat of a veto of the proposed legislation.

WSJ owner Rupert Murdoch appears upset on Twitter. ”So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery,” he wrote. ”Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying.”

The controversial legislation, once considered a sure thing, now appears to be “headed for a fierce fight,” reports The Wall Street Journal. The Senate will conduct a procedural vote on the legislation Jan. 24, reports the WSJ. House backers haven’t announced any plans to advance the legislation, but they said Friday that they will remove a provision that worried some cybersecurity experts.

Consumer Reports warns the legislation is “far from dead” despite opposition from the White House and recent changes to the bills.

Curtailing the piracy of copyrighted material is a tricky issue. Current federal laws prohibit the copying and redistribution of movies and music but are rarely enforced. Anyone that rides public transportation has surely been offered a bootleg DVD, but how many street peddlers get arrested?

Open source supporter Tim O’Reilly has an interesting take. He says “history teaches us that [piracy] is primarily a result of market failure, the unwillingness or inability of existing companies to provide their product at a price or in a manner that potential customers want.”

Would inexpensive CDs and DVDs or even cheaper digital downloads curtail illegal behavior? Maybe, but any capitalist will tell you it’s hard to compete with free.

38 comments Add your comment

George Mathis

January 17th, 2012
2:31 pm

I revised this entry and deleted reader comments to keep the blog on topic. Thanks for the constructive criticism. Never let it be said I don’t listen to all 4 of my readers.

Voice of Reason

January 17th, 2012
3:00 pm

Excellent! now we will see which entertainment medium is more powerful, the Internet, or the music and film industry.

FIGHT!

Quantaviana

January 17th, 2012
3:33 pm

How will I appear to be a genius prodigy in my blog posts without access to Wikipedia tomorrow? This is a truly alarming development, might even be the Mayan calendar 2012 EOTW thing come early!

BillyB3

January 17th, 2012
10:41 pm

It’s not just about Wikipedia, It’s about posting anything you don’t own online. Say goodby to Youtube and any site that has anything that “might” have copyrighted material. How would like a text only Facebook?

Siekobilly

January 18th, 2012
9:14 am

So according to Mr. Murdoch, those backing SOPA/PIPA don’t have lobbyists behind them? I sure hope he’s not writing any articles, or editing any…

the truth...

January 18th, 2012
9:14 am

Anyone that aligns themselves with Nancy Pelosi is as big an idiot as she is….

When I saw tat she was one of the movers and shakers of this move, I first barfed (as I always do when I see her prune faced presence of hyprocisy and ignorance) and then naturally moved away to the other side.

For all of these sites to push their cause by shutting down for a period of time like Craigs List did this morning…pisses me off and makes me less sympathetic if anything.

Reverie

January 18th, 2012
9:16 am

This is becoming “The Eternal Struggle”. On one hand we have commercial and private interests with intellectual property which they developed to sell. Naturally, they do not want their product, produced by the sweat of their brow, diluted or stolen. On the other hand we have a cadre of two internet generations, accustomed to and comfortable with the freewheeling nature of the medium. One side paints the other as thieves and the other claims the first are a bunch of robber barons, intent on crushing “free speech”.

Well, I don’t think this is an argument about either free speech or the ability to be creative. This in no way impinges on the ability of anyone to create speech and post it on the Internet. What this does is eliminate the use of intellectual property for the gain of someone other than the owner. I’m not sure how this is “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” either. The people screaming the most about it are the people in the greatest danger of being identified as the thieves. Remember, the overarching message about “free speech” and “free expression” is that it must originate with you.

Dawgwild

January 18th, 2012
9:17 am

George, that was a pretty good article. I like how you took care of your business like that. Now you have 5 readers today.

the truth...

January 18th, 2012
9:17 am

If I remember correctly the Wikipedia folks were supporters of Wikileaks as well. That alone reduces their credibilty as it is clear that there is information that should remail private, secret, and unavailabe for the good of mankind.

TonyMan

January 18th, 2012
9:20 am

If you really need Wikipedia today, just hit the ESC key after the page you want loads but before the “Blackout” occurs.

RxDawg

January 18th, 2012
9:34 am

I’m against anything that makes more rules, more regulations, and also makes pretty much every citizen a felon. I aplaud these internet companies for fighing against this bill, it’s unamerican.

DonnaPal

January 18th, 2012
9:34 am

No person or company actually OWNS the information contained inside any encylopedia. An encylopedia is merely a collection of reports, essays or information that has alwats been readily available from mutiples sources anyway. If this law is passed, will we now be restricted to getting information only from only one source? What about bias? Freedom of speech? And to the companies lobbying for this law — This is a capitalist country – stop whining if you aren’t making as much money as you want and focus on making your product so enticing, we WANT to come to you!

roughrider

January 18th, 2012
9:42 am

And here I thought the internet was a free flow of information.

Iconoclast

January 18th, 2012
9:43 am

Now that the SCOTUS regard corporations as citizens, the entertainment empire shoudl have no trouble buying every vote on the Hill and getting the Congress to create even more avenues through which litigation can tie-up the courts and keep attorneys and producers from starving to death.

Matt

January 18th, 2012
9:45 am

This has very little to do with piracy and much more to do with giving power and control of a democrotizing platform over to a few corporate interests. Watch this Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yDX8Lyl16Qs

Glenn

January 18th, 2012
9:45 am

so much for Wikipedia’s NPOV.

RonPaul2012

January 18th, 2012
9:51 am

We need to kick the federal government out of our private lives, both online and offline.

To do this, we need a new leader who both understands AND upholds the Constitution & Bill of Rights.
(Hint: That leader AIN’T the Status Quo.)

bill

January 18th, 2012
9:55 am

Im going to walmart and steal a bunch of dvd’s and books. When they try to arrest me I will say I just practicing my freedom of speech. How dare you have rules FREEDOM FREEDOM !

[...] Also, the following is a link to an article that summarizes the extent of the protest:  http://blogs.ajc.com/news-to-me/2012/01/17/thousands-of-websites-offline-wednesday-to-protest-sopa-p… [...]

bill

January 18th, 2012
10:03 am

friend of mine said this and I quote him:

If you like stealing stuff or getting stuff for free, just admit it, I don’t have a problem with that. It’s when people try to make this into some sort of complicated argument regarding business models and free speech is when it gets silly.

Maybe I just hang around honest people in real life, but everyone I know who torrents content just says they do it because it’s free. I never argue with them or even have a problem with them because at least they are being honest. If you like free stuff and there is a legal loophole to get what you want, go ahead and do it, but don’t try to make it out like doing so makes you some sort of future-savvy businessman or freedom fighter who is fighting for all of our freedom in the digital age.

If you want to fight for freedom, go ahead and do it. But torrenting the latest season of Dexter because you are too poor to afford Showtime or the DVD box set doesn’t make you the next MLK.

At least be honest with yourself. That’s really my only issues with this whole debate, the people who fool themselves into thinking they are part of something larger in order to rationalize their own theft. There are certain things I can’t afford like yachts and super cars, but if I could get them for free by stealing with no repercussion, I just might do it. But at least I would admit that I just stole them, I wouldn’t weave some convoluted Robin Hood type argument to rationalize my theft.”

ViewFromMidtown

January 18th, 2012
10:19 am

It’s about DUE PROCESS, stupid. Now that I’ve got your attention…

What most of the commenters here don’t understand is that opposing these bad laws does NOT equate to supporting piracy. There are already plenty of laws supporting copyright to address piracy. What is untenable within these proposed laws are punishments based on mere accusations, thereby subverting our constitutionally guaranteed rights to due process. To put it more clearly, SOPA would allow the simple accusation (without proof, investigation, or due process) of just linking to unauthorized copyrighted material to cause a website (which in many cases is an entire company/small business) to be made unavailable (i.e. blocked, taken offline). This could be a small start-up with a industry-shaking new product or process taken down by an accusation from a more established competitor; it could be a political website advocating for a candidate or cause taken offline by a unproven accusation from an opponent. The first stifles innovation and destroys new businesses (where true job growth occurs), the second silences speech.

So yes, the is about both DUE PROCESS and FREE SPEECH, so take off your blinders and don’t bow down to you corporate overlords and give up what remains of your constitutional rights.

Robert Halloran

January 18th, 2012
10:28 am

The problem with the proposed bills is not because of the attempts to block piracy: no one argues this is an issue. The problem is that any “content provider” can claim a site is infringing, and with *NO* legal review, get it shut down, get ISPs to block access, block card companies from accepting payments, etc. Warner has admitted about a third of their “takedown” notices under the *current* law were for material that wasn’t theirs to begin with. A political site criticizing could get slammed for including a head-shot from the politico’s website.

Do we really want to put the same censorship controls in place that you find in China? Are you *really* trying to tell us the movie studios and record companies are *that* hard up financially? Do you really think if this sort of control goes into place the politicians won’t use it to block “inconvenient” expose’ s on their foul-ups?

the reason

January 18th, 2012
10:42 am

This bill will not merely fight piracy. What this will do is give accusers the ability to destroy websites without court backing. Youtube can be shutdown by anyone accusing them of having copyrighted material. They don’t even need to prove it! They merely have to accuse the website, and it’s gone. No judge. No jury. Just an accusation and it’s gone.

Adam

January 18th, 2012
10:48 am

There is a way to get wikipedia today. They claim that it is totally blocked, but it’s not.

After you have entered your search word and click enter, you will see a quick glimpse of the page you were wanting to view before it goes to the dark side page informing you that wikipedia is protesting and blah, blah, blah.

At the page where you saw that quick glimpse (of the page you were originally wanting to view), click Esc during this quick glimpse. You have to time this perfectly.
But, if you do, the page opens normally and you can use wikipedia.

Danny

January 18th, 2012
10:51 am

Maybe they should all tag us, lock us up just let us go to work so that they can get our taxes. Wait! that would be communism? Is that where we are heading to be like North Korea?

Franky

January 18th, 2012
11:04 am

Another Obama restriction. …

bill

January 18th, 2012
11:14 am

actually ViewFromMidtown you are buying the spin. It doesnt work like that and dmca is a very weak law. Thats why pirate bay can laugh at microsoft. You cut off their ad buyers then they wouldnt be laughing anymore. Thats why blogspot can host mountains of piracy and google will take their sweet time taking down. Because dmca is weak. And a law with teeth is needed.

bill

January 18th, 2012
11:15 am

just so you all know you cant just say they are infringing on my content and you will be shut down on line. Thats not true read the bill not the spin.

ira farmer

January 18th, 2012
11:38 am

Good! Wiki is unreliable as a resource and they always show up Top of Page for Google searches, such a nusiance! Goodbye, Farewell, don’t the front door hit you where the good Lord split ya!

bill is an idiot

January 18th, 2012
12:51 pm

The DMCA doesn’t affect The Pirate Bay because The Pirate Bay is not located in America. Contrary to popular belief, American laws do not have authority outside of America.

Paige Leitman

January 18th, 2012
12:53 pm

Thank you, Mathis, and AJC, for covering this story. It’s important that folks are educated about these issues and take the actions that they deem are appropriate.

And the big deal is...

January 18th, 2012
2:19 pm

So, Wikipedia has shut down today. Can someone please provide a *practical* example of the issue at hand? Copyright infringement… Okaaaayyy. Napster, I get. YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, etc., I don’t. Thanks!

Me

January 18th, 2012
2:46 pm

Who cares, stay offline. Need to censor/remove all those TV pharmaceutical ads too. Freedom of speech: absolutely, but some people take it too far and must be told what to do.

Tom E. Gunn

January 18th, 2012
2:57 pm

Those that have want it all! Be happy with the millions you make on legitimate sales, and quit worring about those of us who have to “piece” together music, video, etc.

Communications

January 18th, 2012
4:19 pm

The PIPA and SOPA bills currently in Congress seem to be using an AK-47 to hunt squirrels. Certainly intellectual property needs protection from piracy, but these bills go way too far. Looks like the public outcry is slowing down the momentum of this over-the-top legislation.

Fred

January 20th, 2012
12:49 am

Gee Communications, I can shoot a squirrel in the head with one round using an ak47. Whatchoo talking about Willis?

[...] was not coincidental.  Two days ago thousands of sites (including all Venganza Media sites) went dark to protest the SOPA/PIPA legislation, leading to suspension of both bills in Congress.   But while the headlines may tout a victory for [...]

jearmsamuel

February 6th, 2012
2:49 am