LegalRegulationWorkspace

Wikipedia 24-Hour Blackout Protests Anti-Piracy Laws

Wikipedia and others have shut down their Websites in protest against US anti-piracy legislation

Wikipedians have shut down the English version of Wikipedia for 24 hours in protest against proposed US legislation that, in its current form, would curtail the freedom of the Internet.

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), the bills currently being considered by US lawmakers, would give the US powers to police citizens of other sovereign nations in their pursuit of those suspected of online piracy and copyright infringement.

Neo-McCarthyism

Despite widespread criticism of the legislation by business, civil society and even President Obama himself, no foreign government has stepped up in defence of its citizens.

Upon contacting the UK Foreign Office and the Department for Culture Media and Sport, TechWeekEurope was told that the UK does not interfere with legislation made by other countries, even if those laws are aimed specifically at UK residents.

“SOPA and PIPA are badly drafted legislation that won’t be effective in their main goal (to stop copyright infringement), and will cause serious damage to the free and open Internet,” said a statement on the Wikipedia homepage. “They put the burden on Website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. Small sites won’t have sufficient resources to defend themselves. Big media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if copyright isn’t being infringed. Foreign sites will be blacklisted, which means they won’t show up in major search engines. And, SOPA and PIPA build a framework for future restrictions and suppression.”

SOPA is not dead

While news reports have claimed that the SOPA legislation had been relegated to the cutting room floor, Wikipedia has stated that there is every chance that this bill will return, warning that PIPA is just as dangerous as the more well known Stop Online Piracy Act.

Neither SOPA nor PIPA are dead. On 17 January, SOPA’s sponsor said the bill will be discussed in early February. There are signs PIPA may be debated on the Senate floor next week. Moreover, SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem. We are already seeing big media calling us names. In many jurisdictions around the world, we’re seeing the development of legislation that prioritises overly-broad copyright enforcement laws, laws promoted by power players, over the preservation of individual civil liberties. We want the Internet to be free and open, everywhere, for everyone,” said the site in its statement.

UK based Open Rights Group has blanked out its home page in support of the protest while similar blackouts and protests have spread to US Websites such as WordPress, Reddit and Google.

Open Rights Group’s Peter Bradwell said “These two bills are so badly worded and too broad that perfectly lawful sites could be censored. One reason we’re joining these protests is that we face very similar issues in UK copyright enforcement policies. Highlighting these flaws should help UK policy makers avoid making the same mistakes.”

Despite its protest, Wikipedia has agreed to make the site available for emergencies, with instructions on accessing the site being available online.