Move over Obama. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has come up with their own jobs plan by way of oppressive Internet regulations that would create thousands of new, high paying jobs for attorneys as well as government workers and Internet censors -- all the while choking off jobs that might otherwise be created by innovators in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. The House Judiciary committee has scheduled its hearing on this legislation Wednesday.
The Senate PROTECT IP Act (S. 968) and the new House SOPA bill (H.R. 3261) are the brainchildren of movie and recording industry lobbyists who would love to see other industries -- and the government -- dragged more fully into the world of online censorship to undertake further copyright enforcement. But the breadth and ineffectiveness of the measures may be the best job creating mechanism proposed this year: A broken law that fails to reach its intended targets requires lots and lots of people in highly-skilled overhead and non productive jobs to either plug or exploit the leaks in logic and execution.
Maybe the ranks of Internet engineers, cyber security experts, law professors, NY Times editorial board, LA Times editorial board, tech industry, venture capitalists, tea party activists and Internet rights activists will drop their opposition to this controversial bill when they consider the many job-creating opportunities for these special groups of employees:
1) Lawyers: While the Senate version may be better for trial lawyers with its stronger private right of action, the House version will create a blizzard of notices and billable lawyer activity that's not technically litigation. Copyright holders may need to hire additional attorneys -- as will respondents like credit card companies, advertising networks, Internet access providers, websites that have user generated content. Even email providers might think to lawyer-up the first time a user emails somebody a link to a blacklisted website.
2) Judicial employees: More court cases mean more courthouse jobs! Somebody needs to process all those court orders filed against websites and the expected challenges over whether credit card processors, ad networks and other service companies are "doing enough" to blacklist sites with alleged offending material.
3) Cyber security engineers: Yes cybersecurity experts wrote Congress to complain the PROTECT IP Act would drive domain name routing offshore, compromise our intelligence capabilities and threaten the safe functioning of the global Internet. But hey, if we didn't listen to their warnings about the mess these bills would create, we can at least hire them to clean the mess up afterward!. The bright side is again: hundreds or thousands of new, high paying jobs for those having to monitor the increased threats and to figure out new ways to try to monitor foreign DNS servers. The only problem is that we do not have enough cyber security professionals now, let alone after this bill passes.
4) Government: This legislation will create additional federal job opportunities by directing the Department of Justice to create blacklists for so-called rogue websites. But since the definition is broad and the real offenders will spring up on different names or different DNS servers, keeping an updated list of offending websites will be a full time -- albeit futile -- job for many. And if some sort of appeals process for websites is still in the final bill, sorting out the legitimate companies from the real worst of the worst will keep more government employees busy.
5) Internet monitors/censors -- From emails to videos to tweets, Internet content is typically not inspected prior to posting. Tech companies generally have a reactive model, responding to complaints rather than screening all content before it's sent or posted. Hundreds of companies that will now be held liable for content that contains infringing material -- or even aids someone in finding it -- may need to hire thousands of new employees to monitor the Internet. With Twitter handling 50 million tweets a day last year and 48 hours of video uploaded per minute on YouTube, monitoring online activity may be the biggest job creation bill Congress has ever offered.
6) Pornographers -- It is no secret that the porn industry is one of the most active in pursuing copyright enforcement cases. But while current targets are often individual infringers and fellow porn companies, Protect IP and SOPA would give these enforcers the ammo to target bigger game: larger publishing firms, web companies and even search engines that could unwittingly be drawn in to copyright battles.
Who knows how many thousands of jobs can be created if Congress passes these massive new Internet regulations. Though to be fair, we should probably subtract jobs from ad networks and payment processors that could have to lay off employees if they get hit with a hefty fine for not doing enough to cut business ties to offending sites. If sites with user-generated material are shut down or partly blocked, that could cost jobs both for the company itself as well as those advertising and selling products on the site. Oh and to be fair, keeping engineers in court rather than innovating is probably a drag on the economy too. So we have some subtracting to do before determining the real job creation value here. We hope those numbers get factored in before a vote.