Sunday

25th Jun 2017

Focus

Wikipedia blackout targets US anti-piracy laws

  • The website's page on Wednesday, as seen by millions worldwide (Photo: wikipedia.org)

Online encyclopaedia Wikipedia on Wednesday (18 January) triggered a 24-hour blackout of its English language site in protest against anti-piracy legislation currently under discussion in the US Congress.

Wikipedia - which attracts over 25 million visitors per day to its site - said the decision to go off-line was taken in response to the Stop Anti-Piracy Act (Sopa) and Protect IP (Pipa), two bills aimed at tackling illegal downloads and file-sharing.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Critics of Sopa allege that the bill would allow US authorities to shut down domain-names worldwide if they were managed by US companies. This could potentially include the .com and .net sites, both of which are widely used by companies in EU member states. The bill could also force US-based service providers and search engines from doing business with EU sites suspected of illegal downloads.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, described the move as "an extraordinary action for our community to take." He said that Wikipedia could not "ignore the fact that Sopa and Pipa endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world."

Similar 'blackouts' have been promised by news sharing website Reddit, while on-line giants Google and Facebook have also expressed their opposition to the legislation.

Not all are in agreement with Wikipedia's actions, however.

Dick Costolo, chief executive of social media site Twitter, on Monday (16 January) criticised Wikipedia's stance. "Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish," he said, according to Forbes.

The row has also reached the White House, where a statement released on behalf of President Barack Obama hinted that he would veto the bill unless there is a consensus in Congress

The White House stated that Obama would refuse to support Sopa if it "reduces freedom of expression, increases cyber security risks or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet."

Wikipedia's public opposition to Sopa follows the adoption by the Spanish government of the controversial Sinde bill, which was passed earlier this month following US diplomatic pressure.

Like Sopa, Sinde creates a government body with powers to force internet service providers to block sites alleged to have infringed copyright. Copyright holders will also have the right to lobby the government body to close down sites.

Meanwhile, a ruling by the European Court of Justice in November has indicated that Sopa and Pipa could infringe EU law. In its decision on a case brought between Scarlet Extended SA, an internet service provider, and Sabam, a Belgian company responsible for the authorisation of third-party use of musical works, the Court stated that: "EU law precludes the Imposition of an injunction by a national court which requires an Internet service provider to install a filtering system with a view to preventing the illegal downloading of files."

The case came before the Court after Sabam established that users of Scarlet's services were downloading works in Sabam's music catalogue from the Internet for free, using peer-to-peer networks.

The European Parliament has also expressed its concerns about legislation to curb illegal file-sharing and downloads.

In a resolution supported by its three largest political groups in Strasbourg in advance of the recent EU-US summit on 28 November, the Parliament called on the US to "refrain from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names."

It also emphasised the need to "protect the integrity of the global internet and freedom of communication."

EU abandoning internet policing to private companies

The European Commission's drive to get public policy carried out by companies risks creating an internet policed by private corporations and no judicial recourse for those affected by their decisions, say digital rights campaigners.

Politicians divided on 'Big Brother' Internet laws

Heated debate on online privacy law has re-emerged in Washington with the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act set to be the first bill on internet piracy to be adopted by the US Congress.

Pressure mounts on EU cloud deal as deadline looms

The European Commission is under pressure to keep to its self-imposed September deadline to publish an EU cloud computing strategy, as new evidence revealed widespread public confusion about it.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit