Websites Everywhere Dark In Protest Of US Anti-Piracy Legislation
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch on 18/01/2012 @ 5:15 pm
In an unprecedented action suggesting intellectual property rights have bumped up against an access threshold, thousands of websites have gone “dark” today in protest against two draft anti-piracy and counterfeiting bills in the US Congress that the protestors say would harm freedoms online. The protest includes major technology firms like Google, Mozilla, Wikipedia, Flikr, Reddit, Vimeo and WordPress.
The website SOPA Strike  lists dozens of participating sites.
US technology lobbying groups have joined as well, such as the Consumer Electronics Association, Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Computer and Communications Industry Association, MoveOn.org, and the National Venture Capital Association. A range of others, such as environmental activist group Greenpeace, tech publication Wired, BoingBoing.net, the Internet Archive, internet anonymity site Tor Project, and software service Tucows joined in. A number of websites provided tools for reaching congressional representatives or to sign a petition. Facebook created a page  raising concerns about the bills.
At issue are two bills in Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate variant, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Sponsors of the bills proposed changes in recent days (IPW, US Policy, 17 January 2012 ), but the protest proceeded to send its message.
Google put a black censorship block over its well-known image above the search mechanism box. It included a link to a page declaring “End Piracy Not Liberty”, and explaining: “Millions of Americans oppose SOPA and PIPA because these bills would censor the Internet and slow economic growth in the U.S. Two bills before Congress, known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business. Millions of Internet users and entrepreneurs already oppose SOPA and PIPA.
The Senate will begin voting on January 24th. Please let them know how you feel. Sign this petition urging Congress to vote NO on PIPA and SOPA before it is too late,” Google said.
Google added: “Tell Congress: Don’t censor the Web – Fighting online piracy is important. The most effective way to shut down pirate websites is through targeted legislation that cuts off their funding. There’s no need to make American social networks, blogs and search engines censor the Internet or undermine the existing laws that have enabled the Web to thrive, creating millions of U.S. jobs. Too much is at stake – please vote NO on PIPA and SOPA.”
Wikipedia in English posted a black screen with the message: “Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge: For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia. Learn more. Contact your representatives. Your ZIP code:”
Websites outside the US were in protest as well, perhaps unsurprisingly given the continued influence the United States has on the global internet, and that the bills’ proponents such as the film industry were insisting as late as last night that the bills would only target illegitimate foreign websites, not American sites.
In Brazil, online magazine “Revista do Terceiro Setor “, RETS, blacked out its website with a moveable spotlight on its protest message. In France, non-governmental group La Quadrature du Net posted a blackout message. Canada’s identi.ca joined in after its users supported the blackout, and in the name of an “open Web and open internet.” European Digital Rights also came out against the bills.
The Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus, a broad-based international set of non-governmental internet policy experts, posted a message capturing the spirit of the international movement against internet censorship. It said:
“Press Statement by the Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus on Censorship (SOPA/PIPA/IGR)
We have made a decision to join the black out in protest of the arbitrary censorship of the internet which violates people’s rights to responsibly use the internet. We note with increasing concern the the various censorship mechanisms around the world including but not limited to India’s Intermediary Guideline Rules (IGR) nor the United States of America’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)and Protect IP Act (PIPA).
Any country’s censorship mechanisms affect ordinary internet users all over the world.
We note Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and urge governments who have ratified the ICCPR to abide by their commitments. Whilst freedom of expression has limitations, these limitations are on the verge of being extended to accommodate assault on freedom of expression and the openness of the internet.
Whilst the exception has been provided for it does not mean that it can be abused. For jurisdictions which have legitimate governments where people can truly have their say in the laws that their legislators dish out or choose their representatives to Parliament or Congress, it is critical that even more so, civil society is seen to make a stand.
We have observed with great concern threats to freedom of expression on countries such as Republique Democratique du Congo, China and Syria.
We have watched with joy as Burma continues to relax its censorship of online content. Countries can mature in aspects of freedom of expression and it takes awareness, outreach and dialogue. For a country like the USA to pass SOPA or PIPA as law at the expense of freedom of expression is a realisation that the assault on freedom of expression does not know borders. We stand with civil society organisations in the United States of America and abroad who are collectively raising their voice against the SOPA and PIPA.
We urge all stakeholders of internet governance to encourage dialogue to help governments, members of civil society and the private sector to engage in dialogue to discuss how we can preserve the openness of the internet.”
Article printed from Intellectual Property Watch: http://www.ip-watch.org
URL to article: http://www.ip-watch.org/2012/01/18/websites-everywhere-dark-in-protest-of-us-anti-piracy-legislation/
URLs in this post:
 SOPA Strike: http://sopastrike.com/
 created a page: https://www.facebook.com/FacebookDC?sk=app_329139750453932
 IPW, US Policy, 17 January 2012: http://www.ip-watch.org/2012/01/17/all-eyes-on-us-stop-online-piracy-act-sopa-fate-of-bill-now-unclear/
 Revista do Terceiro Setor: http://www.rets.org.br/
 SOPA Blackout Was Biggest Online Protest In History, Backers Say: http://www.ip-watch.org/2012/01/19/sopa-blackout-was-biggest-online-protest-in-history-backers-say/
 FAQ: What SOPA Would Mean To You: http://www.ip-watch.org/2012/01/19/an-faq-on-what-sopa-would-mean-to-you/
 Groups Call On Congress To Step Back From SOPA-Style Legislation: http://www.ip-watch.org/2012/02/07/groups-call-on-congress-to-step-back-from-sopa-style-legislation/