Here’s the thing to know about the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)’s cost estimate for implementing the PROTECT IP Act: it’s entirely possible that it won’t cost anything extra at all.
The bill doesn’t call for any spending in itself; you will find no dollar signs in PROTECT IP. CBO’s statements that the bill “would not affect direct spending or revenues” and “would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal governments” reflect that same fact. The bill does not direct the government to spend money, which is enormously important.
The Justice Department has seen a significant increase in its resources related to fighting copyright infringement and intellectual property theft in recent years. The PRO-IP Act of 2008 authorized and Congress subsequently provided funding for an additional 51 FBI agents dedicated to enforcement of intellectual property laws. The new PROTECT IP Act would give these agents and their colleagues new authority to tackle the threat of rogue sites, and knowing what we do about the FBI, it’s extremely unlikely that they would wait to start going after rogue sites until additional money came in the door.
Of course, to echo what the Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy said last week, we would welcome it if Congress chooses to devote even more resources to the fight against content theft and counterfeiting – especially since fewer stolen movies, TV shows, and other content will mean not only more jobs and economic output, but more tax revenues, too.
Even if prosecutors were successfully able to keep just a handful of the highest-traffic sites that steal films and TV out of the U.S. marketplace each year, it would make a huge difference. In that sense, any money we spend on PROTECT IP is likely to produce a healthy return on investment for taxpayers – which, in the end, is the best outcome of all.