SOPA Shutdown: Popular Sites Go Black To Fight Web Piracy Bills

There's Gonna Be A Blackout

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), controversial Hollywood-backed bills that legislators are looking to pass to thwart copyright infringement and online piracy, have sparked a grass-roots movement from opponents. On Wednesday, many blacked out their Web sites in protest of the possible laws, which they say would censor the Web and hamper innovation.

SOPA and PIPA, voting on which could begin as early as next week, seek to put an end to the online piracy of movies, music, software and other intellectual property, and would give the U.S. government and copyright holders the authority to seek court orders against Web sites that infringe upon, pirate or counterfeit that intellectual property. The bill, however, also would allow copyright holders and the U.S. Department of Justice to go after Web sites that are unwittingly connected to offending sites. The bills, critics have said, would pull Internet service providers into the fold to block customers from accessing offending sites.

Here we look at some of the sites that shut down in their stance against SOPA and PIPA.


The U.S. English version of Wikipedia went black Wednesday morning, greeting visitors with a sparse page telling them to "imagine a world without free knowledge." The Wikipedia page, which featured a box for users to enter their ZIP code to contact their local representatives to speak out against SOPA and PIPA, also said: "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."


While Google didn't shut down its search engine, it joined the fight. In a show of solidarity with SOPA opponents, Google slapped a black censorship band over its iconic Google logo on its main home page. Underneath, Google urged visitors to "Tell Congress: Please don't censor the web!" Google linked to additional information on SOPA and PIPA and to a petition for users to sign to fight the bills. "End piracy, not liberty," Google wrote.


Boing Boing

Publishing player Boing Boing also went dark Wednesday in anti-SOPA support. The main Boing Boing page greeted visitors with the notification "503: Service Unavailable."

"Boing Boing is offline today, because the US Senate is considering legislation that would certainly kill us forever. The legislation is called the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and would put us in legal jeopardy if we linked to a site anywhere online that had any links to copyright infringement.

"This would unmake the Web, just as proposed in the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). We don't want that world. If you don't want it either, visit for instructions on contacting your Senator. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has more information on this and other issues central to your freedom online."


Craigslist brought visitors to a landing page offering its stance on SOPA and PIPA. And while users could still proceed to their desired destination, Craigslist didn't mince words:

"STOP PIPA (Senate 968) & SOPA (HR 3261)," Craigslist wrote. "Imagine a world without Craigslist, Wikipedia, Google, [your favorite sites here]. ... News Corp, RIAA, MPAA, Nike, Sony, Comcast, VISA & others want to make that world your reality. 80 Members of Congress are in their sway, 30 against, the rest undecided or undeclared. Please take a minute to tell your members of Congress you oppose PIPA & SOPA."

Craigslist offered a link to more info and action items, followed by the parting shot: "PS: corporate paymasters, KEEP THOSE CLAMMY HANDS OFF THE INTERNET!"


Open government news, content and information site got in the SOPA shutdown spirit as well, posting a four-minute video showcasing how SOPA and PIPA would break the Internet and a lengthy bit about why it has joined the battle against the two potential pieces of legislation.

"Today, GovFresh is going dark to show the world that we do not support the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and the PROTECT IP Act in the U.S. Senate. If you've been following our coverage of the bills, you know that the United States Congress is considering anti-piracy bills that could cripple Internet industries, the engine of dynamic economic growth all around the world," the site noted.


The widely used news aggregation site Reddit, which was among the first to threaten a blackout, kept its word Wednesday with videos, FAQs and additional SOPA-related information.

"Today, for 12 hours, goes dark to raise awareness of two bills in congress: H.R.3261 'Stop Online Piracy Act' and S.968 'PROTECT IP,' which could radically change the landscape of the Internet. These bills provide overly broad mechanisms for enforcement of copyright which would restrict innovation and threaten the existence of websites with user-submitted content, such as reddit.

"Please take today as a day of focus and action to learn about these destructive bills and do what you can to prevent them from becoming reality."


A $1 billion business such as Rackspace can't shut down its Web properties for the day, but the cloud and hosting giant did its part with a large black anti-SOPA banner on its main page. The link leads to a new blog post from Rackspace CEO Lanham Napier, a vocal opponent of SOPA who is expected to testify against the bill before Congress. Napier wrote: "We're making progress in blocking bad legislation and working toward something better, but we need to keep the pressure on. I'm going to keep making my views known, and I hope you'll do the same."


Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla joined the fight against SOPA and PIPA to "protect the Internet," leading users to a page showing its support for the SOPA and PIPA opposition. While users could still use and download Firefox, Mozilla was clear in its mission:

"Today Mozilla joins with other sites in a virtual strike to protest two proposed laws in the United States, called SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act. On January 24th, the U.S. Senate will vote on the PROTECT IP Act to censor the Internet, despite opposition from the vast majority of Americans," Mozilla wrote. "Join us to protect our rights to free speech, privacy and prosperity."


Even sites such as are wielding their power to shut down SOPA. The site, which prides itself on "lolcats" and giving users the ability to make pictures of cats saying funny things, said it could no longer exist in a SOPA and PIPA world.

"This and millions of other sites could be censored by the US government. A bill called PIPA proposed in the US Senate will cripple the Web -- one of the biggest job-creating engines in America -- and censor our online freedoms. It could mean the censoring of Cheezburger, Facebook, Wikipedia, and millions of others. It will mean censoring you. We need to tell our Senators that this bill needs to be stopped."


The popular Twitter photo hosting site Twitpic also made its SOPA stance known Wednesday. The site featured an anti-SOPA and anti-PIPA video, information on how to contact representatives to speak out against the two pieces of proposed legislation and additional information.

"SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (PROTECT-IP Act) are very similar pieces of legislation that both want to kill off illegal file sharing and music downloading. While the intention is good, the way they go about doing it is extremely dangerous and can be easily abused," Twitpic wrote.