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Why businesses care about SOPA

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia is viewed on Jan. 17, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Free online knowledge site Wikipedia will shut down for 24 hours beginning at midnight EST in protest at draft anti-online piracy legislation before the U.S. Congress, founder Jimmy Wales said Monday on Twitter.

Jeremy Hobson: Now let's get to the online protest going on at websites including Wikipedia today. The online encyclopedia has gone dark for a day to oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act, which is being considered by Congress. The legislation is supported by entertainment companies and publishers -- among others -- who say copyright violations online are costing them billions.

For more, let's bring in Josh Brown of Fusion Analytics who joins us live from New York as he does every Wednesday. Good morning, Josh.

Josh Brown: Hello, Jeremy.

Hobson: Well, it looks like this particular legislation is unlikely to pass -- at least in its current form. But I want to ask: don't these content creators have a point? Don't they deserve some protection online for their original content?

Brown: Of course they do. And I think what this debate is really about -- and what has the tech community so up in arms -- is let's have a copyright law that doesn't slow the pace of innovation and stop people from building on each other's work. Because that's the story of human progress, of American progress. So this is not about a copyright law's existence, this is about the way this particular law is written.

Hobson: What do you mean by that? If they deserve protection, then they deserve protection, right?

Brown: This is something different. This comes off as almost vindictive. Essentially the way the Stop Online Piracy Act is written right now, if Google links to a site that in turn links to another site where any kind of piracy is taking place, based on the way this law is written, Google can actually be liable and could end up in court sued.

It's obviously ridiculous; there's absolutely no way that makes any sense. And effectively it would shut down the Internet, and that's what these sites that have gone dark in protest today are showing us.

Hobson: Well Josh, do you think Congress is going to be able to get it right at some point?

Brown: You know, this is more about businesses working together, and then speaking with their representatives and saying: this is what the consensus is, this is how this should work. The Internet is -- while it's been around for 15 years in a commercial sense -- it's still relatively young, and this kind of thing is going to evolve over time.

So I hope Congress has very little to do with it. I hope the companies themselves can figure out the way that this could be done correctly.

Hobson: Josh Brown, of Fusion Analytics. Thanks so much as always.

Brown: Thank you.

About the author

Josh Brown is a New York City-based financial adviser at Fusion Analytics.
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