What's More Important, IP or Public Health?posted Tue, 15 Feb 2011
Wednesday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing relating to Senator Leahy’s Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA). In its current format, this bill could have grave implications for Americans who rely on drug reimportation as a means to access safe and affordable prescription drugs.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this bill, it would give the government sweeping powers aimed at safeguarding intellectual property, including the ability to shut down websites if they are deemed to include infringing content. Among the influential witnesses set to testify at the hearing are: Rosetta Stone, Go Daddy and Verizon.
Despite the fact that there has been widespread, bipartisan opposition to this legislation based on its potential threat to free speech and grassroots innovation, it has powerful industry allies that keep it moving forward.
The Obama Administration has made copyright enforcement a key issue in the last year and a half. First, they appointed an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator—Victoria Espinel. Based on her recent recommendations, President Obama issued an Executive Order last week that established two advisory committees dedicated to the enforcement of intellectual property rights.
The President’s stated reasons for ramping up these efforts? To promote job growth and competitiveness. But to us this looks like another example of serving corporate interests at the expense of the American public.
The health of over a million Americans is in jeopardy because of actions related to these IP enforcement efforts. Espinel’s recent report calls for serious action against “counterfeit pharmaceuticals,” including censoring the websites of online pharmacies.
We agree that actions must be taken against rogue online pharmacies that manufacture and distribute illegitimate, unsafe and ineffective prescription medicines. But let’s not make this a witch hunt. The definition of “counterfeit” must not be broadly applied to genuinely licensed, registered pharmacies from outside the U.S. that meet the oversight standards of their countries (standards that meet or exceed those of the U.S.).
The Obama Administration has a real obligation to the American public to depart from their usual role as a cheerleader for big pharmaceutical companies in this case. Taking action against legitimate online pharmacies is extremely shortsighted, especially in this economic climate. Research shows that when people can’t afford their prescription drugs, they simply stop taking them. Countless Americans can’t afford the exorbitant prices of their needed medicine. Over a million people have found a viable solution in online prescription drug reimportation. Cutting off this virtual lifeline would have serious consequences for public health.
Find out more/watch a live webcast of the COICA hearing: Websites Dedicated To Stealing American Intellectual Property" - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.