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Entire Internet Rallies Against Online Piracy Bill That Will Pass Anyway

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If you've been online today, you've probably seen something about the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, which would let the government shut down and blacklist sites accused of hosting or linking to pirated material. With a vote coming as early as next month and today's Congressional hearing stacked in favor, the Internet is really blowing up in outrage.

The debate is being cast as a showdown between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Basically, the entertainment industry considers online piracy an existential threat, and argues it needs to be able to take down offending websites in order to survive. Meanwhile, Web companies and open-Internet groups say it would destroy the spirit of the Web and kill online innovation.

Google sent the lone witness against the bill today, and its CEO Eric Schmidt yesterday called it "draconian" and "censorship." Influential blogs like BoingBoing are crusading against the bill, replacing their mastheads with black "censored" bars that link to an anti-SOPA campaign. The trendy personal blog network Tumblr has gone so far as to censor its entire site for users, linking them to its own call-your-Congressperson effort.

But let's leave aside do-gooder advocacy groups, independent techies, and of-the-moment blogging platforms: Everyone knows Congress only listens to the big money. This is, after all, the government that just kowtowed to the frozen food lobby and declared pizza a vegetable for school lunch purposes, over the objections of the USDA and everyone who's interested in slowing down the ballooning of American kids' waistlines.

So it seems like a fair lobbying fight, at least -- we've got Web titans like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Yahoo, pitted against entertainment giants like Comcast/NBC, News Corp, Disney, and Time Warner. Clash of the titans, right?

Well, not really: The two sides don't have the same kind of skin in the game. Eric Schmidt and other Web CEOs might have a philosophical problem with censorship, but they're not the ones threatened with it.

As this blog post from a movie producer argues, SOPA would chill innovation by startup companies, which can't afford the legal challenges if they face a shutdown notice. New sites that let users generate and share content would be the ones that really have to worry -- think the next YouTube or Facebook or Tumblr. Basically, the upstarts that could someday be competing with today's Web giants.

As a result, Google and its ilk may be making noise, but they're not throwing around cash like Hollywood is. Relatively speaking, they didn't even bring a knife to this gunfight -- maybe a butter knife, at best.

Courtesy of Politico, here's the chart that will tell you why SOPA is destined to pass:

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