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Pharmas and the Stop Internet Piracy Act

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The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and Pfizer joined the movie and music industry in supporting a controversial bill aimed at shutting down rogue websites that infringe on intellectual property rights.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has angered Internet freedom activists and created a backlash against supporters. Congress adjourned in late December without voting on the bill.

PhRMA senior VP Matthew Bennett had issued a statement in October expressing the trade group's support for the bill. "PhRMA applauds the introduction of the Stop Online Piracy Act and looks forward to working with Chairman Smith and members of the House Judiciary Committee on an issue critical to innovation in the U.S.," he wrote.

"America's pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies invest billions of dollars each year researching and developing new medicines, and they depend on strong and reliable IP protections to continue their important work in research labs across the nation. Intellectual property rights afforded to America's pharmaceutical research companies help them recoup their incredible investments in the discovery of new medicines, and give them a chance to survive and fund further research in a highly competitive environment.

In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, John Clark, Pfizer chief security officer, said passage of the bill is essential to protect U.S. consumers from knockoff "In trying economic times, it is important that sound policies support America's innovative industries - which employ millions of Americans - by protecting the intellectual property on which they depend." drugs that are potentially harmful. "For Pfizer, pharmaceutical counterfeiting is first and foremost an issue of patient health and safety," said Clark.

While supporters argue that the bill gives U.S. authorities the tools they need to close down sites that impinge on the rights of copyright holders, opponents say it would censor the Internet and cause unintended collateral damage to user-created websites and bring information sharing to a halt. Google, Twitter and Facebook oppose the measure saying it goes too far.

Katherine Oyama, copyright counsel for Google, said SOPA "would undermine the legal, commercial and cultural architecture that has propelled the extraordinary growth of Internet commerce over the past decade.

"The bill sweeps in innocent websites that have violated no law and imposes harsh and arbitrary sanctions without due process," she said.

"Any government intervention in the online ecosystem that is the Internet can and will have a ripple effect on more than just its bad actors," according to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who also spoke against the measure.

Supporters of the bill have felt the wrath of the bill's many opponents. GoDaddy, which claims to be the world's largest host of Internet domains, had been a key supporter of the legislation, but after website owners began transferring 10s of thousands of sites away from GoDaddy, the site backed down and withdrew its support from the bill.

SOPA's Key Provisions:

Gives the U.S. attorney general authority to seek a court order to block websites that publish or stream copyrighted information for U.S. audiences.

Requires online service providers including search engines, ISPs, ad networks, and payment providers to withhold services to websites that are deemed by a court to be infringing on the copyrights of U.S. content producers. In addition, the bill requires ISPs to block U.S. access to sites considered to be in violation of intellectual property laws.

Prevents website owners from suing ISPs that block content.

Authorizes ISPs and hosting companies to withhold services to online pharmacies that sell drugs without a prescription.

Establishes creation of intellectual property attaches at all foreign embassies that would be tasked with reducing intellectual property theft.

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