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If the U.S. government were to order the widespread blocking of websites, authoritarian regimes that censor the Internet would be likely to trumpet the news for political cover, argues Hal Roberts, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, who has made several studies of the means by which China and other countries filter online content. “China and other countries happily defend their filtering practices by pointing out that some Western countries filter as well,” Roberts says, “and laws like SOPA will only make it easier for them.”

SOPA has the support of more than 140 companies and organizations, mainly in the music, book, television, and film industries. Many major Internet companies oppose it.

There’s little evidence that similar legislation elsewhere has worked. In 2009, for instance, France passed “three strikes” legislation that was meant to require Internet service providers to cut off access to people who had ignored two warnings to stop trading pirated works. The government set up a bureaucracy to implement the measure earlier this year. But actual enforcement has been slow in coming; ISPs say the task of tracking pirated works is very costly, and they want the government to pay for it.

In the case of the U.S. legislation, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that hiring enforcement staff in the U.S. Department of Justice would cost $47 million over the next five year.

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Tagged: Web, security, Internet, piracy

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