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Congress

CBO Releases Score For Rogue Website Bill

August 19, 2011


A Senate bill to crack down on websites that sell copyrighted and counterfeited material would cost the government $47 million over the next four years, according to a score released this week by the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO's evaluation of PROTECT IP, or "PIPA," a bill by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says the costs arise from a need by the Justice Department "to hire 22 special agents and 26 support staff to execute its new investigative responsibilities" under the legislation.

After the initial phasing-in period, the bill would cost the Justice Department about $10 million per year, according to the CBO report. The bill expands the power of the Justice Department to take action against websites that illegally sell products online.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major proponent of the bill along with the recording and movie industries who say IP theft is a drain on their industries, hailed the score as a boost for the legislation because it also found, as expected, that the bill "would not affect direct spending or revenues" and "would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal governments."

"Given that America's IP-intensive industries employ more than 19 million Americans and generate nearly $7.7 trillion in gross output, should Congress decides to provide more resources to the Justice Department, it will be a small price to pay to save American jobs and protect American consumers," said Steve Tepp, senior director on IP issues for the chamber.

The bill passed unanimously out of committee in May, and a House version is expected when Congress returns from recess. It faces pushback from the tech industry, since companies such as Google would face new mandates to help stop IP theft. The CBO report did not estimate the expense of those new responsibilities, but cited them as an additional cost.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has long sided with Internet companies in conflicts with other industries, placed a hold on the bill in May.

"By ceding control of the Internet to corporations through a private right of action, and to government agencies that do not sufficiently understand and value the Internet, PIPA represents a threat to our economic future and to our international objectives," he said in a statement at the time.

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