An interesting debate took place on MSNBC yesterday, when the the chief counsel for NBC Universal went on the air to vigorously defend the Stop Online Piracy Act. The appearance was not simply a staged press release however, as lawyer and NBC Executive VP Richard Cotton faced heated questions from host Chris Hayes and his guests, including a co-founder of anti-SOPA battleground Reddit.
Hayes hosted the debate on his weekend morning show "Up with Chris Hayes." As Brian Stelter at The New York Times pointed out, it's not unusual for big media corporations to take sides in legislative fights, but it is rare to see them publicly defend their stance on their own networks. It's even rarer for that media outlet to let its motives be questioned by one of its own employees, as it did with Hayes, who was clearly skeptical of some of Cotton's claims.
Cotton insisted throughout the interview that SOPA will not effect any U.S. websites and companies, but didn't have a good explanation for why, if that's true, so many of them are lining up against it. It seems pretty clear from all that we've read that it will indeed effect U.S. sites. (And if didn't, why would the U.S. Congress even bother?) Reddit's Alexis Ohanian fought back by pointing out how easy it will be to circumvent and that the U.S. government actually offers the tools to get around blocked websites for people in authoritarian countries. Former Congressman Joe Sestak also spoke against the bill, saying the government's own rationale — that piracy costs jobs — doesn't hold up.
While neither side made their case in the most convincing manner, the whole segment did make for some interesting television, which fortunately means that Hayes probably won't lose his job for trying to make his bosses look bad.