Why were some sites ‘black’ on the 18th January 2012?

If you landed on Wikipedia on the 18th January 2012, you most probably though that something was wrong. Wikipedia was all black with only 1 paragraph of text on it. Perhaps you did not even bother to read about it, you just said “Damn it, it is not working today!”.

The objective of this post is to briefly explain the blackout of the web on the 18th January 2012 and also, why everyone kept talking about SOPA and PIPA. If you feel that you already know what we are talking about, you should try to read some other articles as what will follow here will be pretty straight forward, just for the sake of explaining what is happening on the web.

What happened exactly?

There was a huge protest going on during the last days.  Everything was happening online, right on the web. Different web sites, organisations as well as individuals (like you and me) were publicly showing that they were against SOPA. Web sites talked heavily about this SOPA/PIPA for days and on the 18th January, many among them have put a halt to their activities by just displaying a Black page with some text, explaining their position on this matter.

What is SOPA/PIPA?

SOPA : Stop Online Piracy Act

PIPA : Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP Act)

Both of them are aimed at stopping online piracy of copyrighted items, though they are a bit different but we will not go into deeper details. However, the way that SOPA/PIPA handle copyright issues is highly unacceptable and controversial.

If SOPA becomes a reality, it will give the power to the US government to block the access to whole web sites that are accused to violate this bill with just a court order. SOPA will also allow internet service providers to monitor your traffic usage and block any web sites suspected of copyright infringement.

For example, if YOU, as a user, upload a video featuring a copyrighted music to youtube, the US government can ban the entire YouTube and no Americans will be able to view any youtube page. Copyright owners can then sue Youtube for hosting such copyrighted materials.

In short, the accused web site will just be killed.

Who are supporting SOPA?

Basically all web sites/organisations who create, produce and commercialise copyrighted materials, in the form of movie, music, photography, designs etc.

Right at the start, godaddy.com showed its interest in the SOPA. A huge boycott campaign was immediately launched and web site owners started to move their web sites and domains from godaddy to some other domain/hosting company which are against SOPA. After a few days, godaddy.com reviewed its position and changed sides. It is now against SOPA.

How does it affect web site owners and you?

Censorship. The internet will become a place where everything will be censored. There won’t be any freedom of speech. Sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, Wikipedia, or any sites that allow user generated content CANNOT exist under these laws.

Megaupload. You have surely heard what happened. No?

Well, on the January 2012, the US government together with New Zealand’s authorities have arrested the people behind this huge file sharing web sites after copyright infringement complaints on behalf of copyright holders. The web site was immediately closed down and if you visit it right now, that’s what you will find :

This is not a joke. This is the kind of things that will happen to every web site and the owners if the actual SOPA/PIPA comes a reality.

And for people outside US?

While the SOPA/PIPA is only applicable to the US, the whole world will be directly affected since a big majority of web sites are hosted and these organisations are based in within the United States. You should not forget that mostly everything happens there, and if anything bad happens there, you are the ones to be affected, in all cases.

That means no web sites offering music/video among others will exist and managed from there.

What’s next?

After the historical protest of the 18th January, S. Smith, the US Representative who proposed SOPA/PIPA, decided to postpone the voting of the bill until there is a wider agreement on a solution to handle copyright issues. Lawmakers are now trying to find better alternatives to fight online piracy.

Despite I really wanted to make this blog go “black” on the 18th January too, I did not do so at the expense of the high traffic on the blog on that special day, especially on the BMW on the Mont Choisy beach post.

Hope that you have a better overview of what took place during the last days and why you could not access some of the web sites you regularly visit. If ever some of the material I have written above is misleading or wrong, please correct me by writing a comment below. Again, I have simplified things a lot just for the sake of simplicity.

Leave you here,

Take care!


13 thoughts on “Why were some sites ‘black’ on the 18th January 2012?

Add yours

  1. And what about the owners of those potentially illegal websites? Would they be prosecuted just as the owners of Megaupload? I guess, New Zealand does have an extradition treaty with the US, that’s why they were arrested and charged following a court order in the US… So, bad news for us in Mauritius… Mauritius has an extradition treaty with the US too!! :OSo beware! Even if we are not doing anything illegal according to the Mauritian law, we could be prosecuted and jailed in the US! Ca fait peur! :p


  2. SOPA and PIPA have been dropped by the Congress. Megaupload was a simple filehosting which hosted many LEGAL works as well. The FBI did not play fair by just taking the site down. Many people including me, have been storing important documents and work files on Megaupload now all gone.

    Another news for you is that Godaddy initially supported SOPA, and in the few days thousands of users moved their domain to other registrars.

    Let’s just hope SOPA and PIPA do not rise from the ashes again.


  3. the internet as we know it had been actually born around the 90’s, for many, the internet was actually a new frontier, the cyberspace. today we are in 2012, if we suppose that the internet was born around 1995, well the cyberspace is actually aged 17. i believe that one day the internet won’t really be the same as we know it, many companies or governments will try to take control of this new frontier……


  4. S.Lamar Smith and othee people are behind this. luckily we have Anonymous to restore back the balance by taking down the FBI, DOJ, Universal Music, RIAA, MPAA and websites supporting SOPA. #Opmegaupload was a huge sucess since it hepled to increase the opposition against those bills.


  5. And what does shutting down
    Megaupload do? Nothing. The material will simply appear elsewhere. I
    presume Google will be shut next because you can find pirate material?
    Or ban the sale of computers, because you can download copyrighted
    material. Prohibiting like this simply does not work and never will do.


    1. The last couple of days have been exceptional in the sense that many file-sharing web sites have reviewed their products, the way they operate and how they distribute files. While some have denied access to some services for their US clients, others have completely disabled upload and sharing services.


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