New Internet lobbying group takes on Big Media

September 19, 2012: 5:13 PM ET

In the face of  Hollywood's lobbying might, the Internet industry has no choice but to strengthen its own hand in Washington.

FORTUNE -- The media industry has been lobbying Washington since before the Silent Film Era. The tech and Internet industries, which are increasingly pitted against Hollywood and the music business (mainly over piracy) have been slower to establish themselves on K Street.

That's been changing in recent years, and today marks the launch of the Internet Association, banding together such companies as Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN), eBay (EBAY) and several others to fight for what it calls "a free and innovative Internet."

There are good reasons for the industry's initial reluctance to plant a foothold in Washington: the commercial Internet was created largely by fast-moving, fast-growing companies often run by technolibertarian types and financed by venture capitalists who by and large felt no need for Washington's help and no desire to entangle themselves in politics. Unlike many new industries in earlier times, information technology and the Internet grew during a long period of deregulation, and government mostly left those industries alone (with certain notable exceptions.)

That's changing, with government now taking on issues such as intellectual property, antitrust, and taxation. At the same time, Silicon Valley -- in particular, the Internet industry -- has finally learned that it must counter the media industry's formidable political power with some power of its own.

Intellectual property is the new group's main concern, at least for the moment. Silicon Valley was spooked by the attempts to pass the Stop Online Privacy Act (or SOPA, in the House) and the Protect IP Act (or PIPA, in the Senate). Those bills were basically shouted down early this year by a public led by various interest groups. But it was considered a near-miss by a Hollywood that seems intent on imposing highly restrictive rules on Internet traffic through its dubious effort to fight piracy.

The group calls itself "an umbrella public policy organization dedicated to strengthening and protecting a free and innovative Internet." The association's CEO, Michael Beckerman said in a statement that the member companies "are all fierce competitors in the marketplace" that nevertheless "recognize the Internet needs a unified voice in Washington." The "future of the Internet is at stake," he said. Beckerman is a former staffer for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees Internet and telecommunications policy.

The other companies in the group are: AOL (AOL), Expedia (EXPE), IAC (IACI), LinkedIn (LNKD), Monster Worldwide (MWW), Rackspace (RAX), salesforce.com,TripAdvisor (TRIP), Yahoo (YHOO) and Zynga (ZNGA). Notably absent are Apple (AAPL)  and Microsoft (MSFT).

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