Infojustice Roundup

Intellectual Property and the Public Interest

Opposition to SOPA and the PROTECT-IP Takes Effect; SOPA Appears Stalled in the House

On January 12, PROTECT-IP Sponsor Sen. Leahy released a statement saying he had “continued to hear concerns about the Domain Name provision from engineers, human rights groups, and others” and promising to give the DNS issue further study.  The next day, SOPA sponsor Rep. Smith released a statement: “…after consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision.” Click here for their full statements. On January 14, the White House responded to online petitions that had received over 100,000 signatures in opposition to the bills: “…we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”  Also on January 14, Rep. Issa released a statement confirming that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor “has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote.”

U.S. Ambassador to Spain Used Special 301 to Pressure Spain to Pass the Sinde Law

On December 30, Spain’s new Popular Party government announced the implementation of the “Sinde Law,” which allows a government agency to order the takedown of websites based on allegations of intellectual property infringement by rightholders.  The government will also be able to take action against service providers doing business with the sites.  The former government led by Prime Minister Zapatero did not pass the bill, raising the ire of the United States. Last week, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported on a leaked letter from U.S. Ambassador Alan Solomont to the Zapatero government, in which he threatened “retaliatory actions” if the country did not pass the Sinde Law. Click here for more.

Designing the Microbial Research Commons:  Proceedings of an International Workshop

The Board on Research Data and Information (BRDI) has published a new report, “Designing the Microbial Research Commons: Proceedings of an International Workshop.”  The October 2009 meeting addressed topics such as models to lower the transaction costs and support access to and use of microbiological materials, and digital resources in publicly funded research, public-private interactions, and developing country concerns. The overall goal of the symposium was to stimulate more research and implementation of improved legal, institutional, and governance models for publicly funded research in microbiology specifically, and in the life sciences more generally.  Click here for the report | Click here for further information on the workshop.

Report on the First Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) Neglected Diseases and Innovation Symposium

ABSTRACT: Universities Allied for Essential Medicines organized its first Neglected Diseases and Innovation Symposium to address expanding roles of public sector research institutions in innovation in research and development of biomedical technologies for treatment of diseases, particularly neglected tropical diseases. Universities and other public research institutions are increasingly integrated into the pharmaceutical innovation system. Academic entities now routinely undertake robust high-throughput screening and medicinal chemistry research programs to identify lead compounds for small molecule drugs and novel drug targets. Furthermore, product development partnerships are emerging between academic institutions, non-profit entities, and biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to create diagnostics, therapies, and vaccines for diseases of the poor. With not for profit mission statements, open access publishing standards, open source platforms for data sharing and collaboration, and a shift in focus to more translational research, universities and other public research institutions are well-placed to accelerate development of medical technologies, particularly for neglected tropical diseases. Click here for more.

Sen. Wyden Challenges ACTA Constitutionality Again

As previously reported, Senator Wyden wrote a letter to President Obama in October, 2011, challenging USTR’s claimed authority to bind the United States to ACTA without Congressional consent.  Wyden’s letter cited legal academics who argue that Congress must approve any binding international agreement on intellectual property minimum legislative standards because the regulation of intellectual property and international trade are Article I section 8 powers of Congress.  USTR’s response was essentially that other trade agreements have gone into effect without Congressional approval, so ACTA can too.  Wyden has now written a new letter to the Administration’s top international law expert, Department of State Legal Advisor Harold Koh, in which he asks “If ACTA is entered by the President without Congressional consent, what will be the nature of the agreement and its legal implications under U.S. and international law?… What is the nature of the international legal obligations that ACTA would create?… What are the constitutional limits on the President binding the U.S. to legislative minimum standard agreements over matters delegated to Congress under Article I Section 8 of the Constitution?”  Click here for more.

Opposition Grows to the Research Works Act

The Research Works Act (HR3699), recently introduced by Reps. Issa and Maloney, would prevent federal agencies from requiring that peer-reviewed articles resulting from research funded by their grants be made freely available online. The American Library Association released a statement saying that “The ALA has been a long-time, ardent supporter of increasing access to information of all types, including federally funded research. This latest bill, the Research Works Act, would act in direct contradiction and therefore the ALA vehemently opposes the bill.” PLoS co-founder Michael Eisen warns in a New York Times op-ed that “If the bill passes, to read the results of federally funded research, most Americans would have to buy access to individual articles at a cost of $15 or $30 apiece. In other words, taxpayers who already paid for the research would have to pay again to read the results.”  Click here for more.