So, you want to stop SOPA, huh? Well, what you're doing just isn't going to work, I'm afraid, and not by a long shot. I realize that boycotting SOPA supporting companies is emotionally satisfying and all (yeah, screw GoDaddy!) and it's kind of fun imagining the reaction of the handful of companies that get disinvited from YC's Demo Day because of it, but does anyone seriously think this matters to, or is even on the radar of, the people voting on this bill - you know, Congress? The unequivocal answer is no. Not remotely.

What matters is money. Cold, hard cash. I know this isn't what you learned in your high school civics class, which I never took because my high school didn't offer it, but I did watch School House Rock's - I'm Just a Bill about a hundred times as a kid and having observed politics (sometimes passively and other times aggressively) I am now pretty convinced the version implied by that cartoon was as much of a fantasy as the animated bill itself (slight sarcasm - sorry).

The unfortunate reality is that our government is almost entirely manipulated by money, either in the form of campaign donations, perks paid for by lobbyists, pork barrel spending, or the proverbial revolving door between government and the large companies it's charged with regulating (generally referred to as industry capture). What, you don't believe me? I could spend hours dredging up links to story after story of how corrupt Washington has become, but since I know you're not going to read them anyway, just listen to this recent interview with Jack Abramoff on Planet Money and that should be a nice eye opener for you:

Look, I know this makes me sound like a cynic and all, and believe me I like the fantasy as much as everyone else, but unless you want SOPA to pass (and unfortunately it may already be too late), then it's time to get serious and face reality on its own terms. The pro-SOPA faction lead by the RIAA, MPAA and the like are not screwing around, and the only realistic way to repel their offensive is to fight fire with fire. That's right. In order to have even the slightest chance of repelling this bill a lot of money is going to have to be spent paying off the politicians. I know it's a dirty game and you want no part of it, but that's what it's going to take. If you want to win in Washington, then you need to know the rules of the game, and the rules say that he who spends the most money wins (usually).

The open letter opposing SOPA, which you can read here

and was signed by Marc Andreessen, Sergey Brin and the like did a nice job of at least clarify the position of the Silicon Valley elite, but those words have to be backed up with real money, otherwise they'll just be ignored. In other words, they need to sign more than a letter, they need to sign a check. In fact, they need to sign a lot of checks because their investment in DC simply pales in comparison to what most other industries have been spending and the politicians are well aware of that. If you don't believe me (and why should you), then check out this little chart:

The funny thing is that when you look at the amount of money that's being spent to purchase influence in Washington, it's embarrassingly small. The sum total invested by the pro-SOPA media conglomerates in 2011 is a paltry $94M. That's nothing for the top 20 anti-SOPA companies to ante up. Didn't Google just buy Apture for a rumored $20M, something that CloudFlare cloned (or at least 90% cloned) in a mere 24 hours?

While I'm sure Apture had some cute tech and a few smart coders - come on! Google has something like $43 billion in cash and securities and all Sergey Brin can manage to do is sign a letter. That's beyond embarrassing. That's accepting defeat without even trying. That's pathetic.

I'm not trying to say that Google should buy off Washington all by itself, but they should be the lead investor. They're the wealthiest, most influential Internet company on the planet, whose success is due not just to their much touted cleverness and technical skill, but because the Internet is what it is and they should play a significant role in protecting it. The same goes for all of the other big shots that signed the letter as well as for the thousands of successful tech CEOs, VC and angel investors who didn't. With great power comes great responsibility. It's time Silicon Valley stepped up.
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