SOPA Wikipedia And Other Internet Blackouts Today

Today sees the blacking-out of Wikipedia and a host of other popular websites in protest at the SOPA bill under debate in the US. SOPA is the copyright legislation bill Stop Online Piracy (SOPA) and its ugly sister Protect IP (PIPA) – two of the worst thought out abuses of democratic and internet freedom in a decade.

As the Chair of the Mozilla Foundation eloquently states: “SOPA makes all of us potential criminals if we don’t become the enforcement arm of a new government regulatory and policing structure. SOPA does not target websites serving up unauthorized content. SOPA does not target people accessing those websites. SOPA targets all the rest of us.

Response From The Internet Community – Most have been firmly against these bills – as well as Wikipedia, heavyweights like Mozilla and Google are also committed to publicizing the dangers of this legislation and many other popular sites like WordPress, Reddit and BoingBoing are also supporting the cause.

Sadly, Facebook and Twitter are not joining in – Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo reckons that applying single-nation politics to a worldwide service is ‘foolish’ – but what is really foolish is that he fails to understand that the legislation is not just an American issue.

Does It Impact The Rest Of The World?

Yes it certainly does. As an example of the ‘thought crime’ views these bills would further enshrine into law – Techweek Europe report a copyright test case where a young British college student has just lost his appeal against extradition to the US (where he could face up to 5 years in jail, cut off from legal funding) – yet his supposed copyright ‘crimes’ appear to have broken no British laws, he never left Britain and the servers hosting his website were based in Britain.

This student’s website simply hosted links to films and TV programmes and did not host any copyrighted material but, instead, redirected users to other sites in a similar fashion to Google search – but of course it is much easier to chase a poor student than a multinational corporation with hundreds of lawyers…

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement claim that website owners with a .com or .net address could face extradition to the US, even if the activity was legal in the owner’s country, because .com and .net addresses are routed through American internet infrastructure owner Verisign, based in Virginia…

This type of twisted and malicious thinking is why the SOPA and PIPA bills are so dangerous to internet freedom – it is easy to see why Wikipedia and Google are concerned as they host links to millions of websites. But it doesn’t just affect large websites – anyone with a .com domain (like TechLogon, gulp!) could also be at risk from the ‘shoot the messenger’ approach of SOPA and PIPA.

It’s hard enough to understand the copyright laws of your own country but how are you supposed to know that a foreign law is possibly being broken – not by you but by some website that you link to?

Bypass Wikipedia Blackout?

I would urge you to read Wikipedia’s info on SOPA and PIPA (they also have a form to find out your Representative’s contact info so you can complain directly to them) but if you really must use Wikipedia today then it is possible to bypass the blackout by temporarily disabling javascript:

  • Firefox – Tools \ Options \ Content and untick ‘Enable Javascript’
  • Chrome – Wrench icon \ Options \ Under the bonnet \ (Privacy) Content Settings \ (Javascript) click ‘Do not allow any site to run javascript’
  • IE – Tools \ Internet Options \ Security \ Custom Level \ scroll down to Scripting and disable ‘Active Scripting’ – you must restart IE

Wikipedia should now work as usual (no black-out) but do remember to re-enable javascript again after you have finished as many other websites require javascript enabled to work properly.

4 Responses to: "SOPA Wikipedia And Other Internet Blackouts Today"

  1. Mark W. says:

    Thanks for the article Roy. I see again that as a U.S. resident I will have to “investigate, watch over, and ride herd” on a Congress that has about a 10% approval rating. It’s going to take a ground swell effort from the people of this country to make our voices heard. I often ask myself why our representatives in Congress aren’t just representing their constituents’ interests and exercising good judgment. The times I ask myself these questions is when the answer is usually – “follow the money”. I think we would be doing ourselves a big favor and just address the problem (money) – specifically, reform of campaign finance and lobbyist access to our representatives.
    Also, I wonder how links would be treated/regulated in the comment section of a blog, within Facebook, on Twitter, or any other number of sites. Maybe they can scan all our emails while they’re at it for links. What about redirected or hacked sites? What I’m saying here is – “where are the boundaries”? Legislation isn’t always the best answer to cure society’s ills. In fact, the U.S. should know this as prohibition legislation and enforcement created it’s own set of problems and made criminals of otherwise law abiding citizens. It’s called unintended consequences. Thanks for allowing me to vent. :)

    • Roy says:

      If you’ll excuse the pun, you’re right on the money Mark!

      My understanding is that comments on blogs etc would have to be moderated in advance in case someone posted a link to some copyrighted material in which case, under SOPA, I could be held liable for copyright infringement and TechLogon taken down, even though I didn’t write the comment or post the link!

      How are webmasters supposed to know if something posted by someone else breaches copyright anyway – what if your comment linked to a help video of you showing how to fit RAM – but it included background music that was copyrighted? Again, they’d come after me, not you – the creator of the actual content.

      The mind boggles at just how dumb some US politicians are, it’s a nonsensical approach and probably can’t be policed anyway but it would surely censor the internet overnight if it ever came into law – smaller sites would probably just stop anyone commenting entirely, just to be on the safe side…

  2. Joe90 says:

    Thanks for the info, certainly needs to be defeated!

    A quick tip – to bypass the Wikipedia blackout, you can also just press your ESC (Escape) key quickly i.e. BEFORE the black page loads. If you miss it, refresh the page with F5 and try again. This will let you view a single Wikipedia page – if you move to another one you need to repeat the process with F5 and ESC…

  3. Don Wood says:

    Please contact your representatives. I have called all of mine. I said, “Good morning, my name is Don Wood and my phone number is XXX XXX XXXX. Honorable Toomey, Please LEAVE THE INTERNET ALONE! PERIOD. Have a very nice day. Thank you.”

    They have thanked me. So, I’m very nice about it, but FIRM in the delivery of my message. I do not want any kinds of laws doing anything to the Internet. The “Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act” (OPEN Act) is a draft text for legislation proposed as an alternative to the Stop Online Piracy Act. DO NOT PASS ANY LAWS EFFECTING THE INTERNET. LEAVE IT/US ALONE! PERIOD.

    Don Wood