Protecting IP at the expense of public healthposted Mon, 11 Apr 2011
We’ve been closely monitoring hearings and press related to the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy last year. This legislation could have grave implications for safe and affordable online drug importation.
COICA was quickly approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last year and was headed to a full vote in the Senate but thankfully Senator Ron Wyden (OR) stepped up and voiced his opposition. Since then, there has been significant online debate about this issue and 300,000 people have signed an anti-COICA petition.
The bill would give the government sweeping powers, including the ability to seize domains and shut down websites with content (or linking content) that is deemed to infringe on intellectual property.
This is a war against piracy and counterfeits, which sounds perfectly reasonable—in theory. But in reality, it oversteps some serious bounds. As an example, in February the government mistakenly targeted 84,000 innocent web sites. The sites were taken down and replaced by a Homeland Security notice suggesting they had links to child pornography. Find out more about this.
Michael Petricone of the Consumer Electronics Association compared fighting piracy by seizing domain names to “duck hunting with an anti-aircraft missile” last week. “You may hit some ducks, but you will hit plenty of other things as well," Petricone said.
Last Wednesday, the Subcommittee on IP, Competition and the Internet held a second hearing in the House. This time Google was in attendance, as was Go Daddy and Immigration and Customs.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith opened the hearing with a statement about the dangers of online pharmacies, quoting numbers from the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, an advocacy group that is clearly funded by big pharmaceutical companies.
What was missing from the hearing is testimony about the many licensed and responsible online pharmacies that millions of Americans depend on. Online drug importation from safe and legitimate Canadian and international pharmacies is a virtual lifeline for those Americans who can’t afford to buy medicine at home. Cutting off this lifeline in the name of protecting corporate profits is not only cruel, it endangers public health.