It’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day
Monday, September 19, 2011 3:00 pm | By J. Michael Wahlen

Today, September 19, happens to be one of our favorite days here at the Property Rights Alliance. This day happens to be International Talk Like a Pirate Day , and we would like to take time out on this sacred holiday to discuss the importance of the issue of piracy. We don’t mean Captain Jack Sparrow, or the Somali pirates, but instead the internet piracy of software, songs, books, and other copyrighted works.

Internet piracy has been growing rapidly in recent years. Currently, 23.8% of all internet traffic involves the illegal downloading of material, with the United States leading the way as having the highest number of illegal downloads. China, however, is not far behind. Out of the estimated 457 million internet users in China (compared to 223 million in the US), it is estimated that 99% of all music downloads in China are illegal.

The effects of internet piracy have been a broadside attack on the U.S. economy. It is estimated that software piracy costs the U.S. over $59 billion dollars a year , music piracy costs $12.5 billion a year , and that book industry costs are over $2.8 billion in piracy . These costs are massive, and must be addressed by new legislation. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) estimates that the music industry loses out on over 70,000 jobs every year due to piracy.

While there are a lot of great ways to celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day, please don’t do it by downloading copyrighted material illegally. Leave the looting and blundering to the characters in the Pirates of the Caribbean, and give the creators of content what they deserve. After all, rewarding great content is the best way to encourage more of it.

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Current TPP Negotiations Focus on IP Protection
Tuesday, September 13, 2011 5:02 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

While much of the current trade focus is on the push to pressure the Administration to submit the pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama, efforts to negotiate future agreements are currently underway, namely the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

This week, the 8th round of trade negotiations on the TPP is being held in Chicago and a top agenda item is intellectual property protection, particularly in the area of pharmaceuticals. To coincide with the current trade round, a group of 37 Senators, led by Sens. Hatch and Kerry, sent a letter to USTR Kirk urging the Administration to maintain strong IP standards in the agreement and specifically calling for the baseline for data exclusivity on biologics to be consistent with U.S. law, meaning a minimum of 12 years.

Earlier this year, PRA echoed these same sentiments in a letter to USTR Kirk and Members of Congress stating:

“The US currently has one of the strongest and fastest growing biotech and pharmaceutical industries in the world. Weakening of IP rights not only is detrimental to the economy, but also puts the public’s health and safety at risk. Drugs being researched and manufactured today have been proven effective against life threatening diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis and diabetes due to reliable patent laws that encourage innovation. Research and development is very expensive, and companies need to have an incentive to keep inventing life-saving drugs. Any trade agreement negotiated by the United States must include an IP chapter that provides for an adequate data protection period in order for research companies to recoup the costs of research and development.”

There are many in NGO community that have long opposed strong intellectual property protections in trade agreements, believing it drives up the cost of medicines and is the main reason why most people in poor countries have little or no access to medicines. However, when looking a little closer, the high price of drugs in poor countries has less to do with intellectual property and more to do with trade barriers and regulations, such as high tariffs and taxes.

As part of their efforts, the Office of the United States Trade Representative released a white paper laying the groundwork for a new strategic initiative titled, “Trade Enhancing Access to Medicines.” The paper outlines several goals including eliminating tariffs on medicines, reducing internal barriers to distribution of medicines, and curbing the trade in counterfeit medicines.

While no one denies the importance of delivering safe, affordable drugs to the world’s poor, the route by which many are calling to take is paved with harmful consequences that affect the future of research and development on these critical drugs. The medicines that patients are using today, whether patented or generic are available because of laws that encourage innovation. This type of international cooperation will go a long way in providing life saving medicines to those that need it the most while promoting innovation for the next generation of drug research and development.


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Rogue Online Pharmacies Still a Real Threat
Monday, August 29, 2011 4:21 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

Last week, it was announced Google agreed to pay $500 million in fines for knowingly allowing Canadian pharmacies to advertise to U.S. consumers. Currently, it is illegal to import prescription drugs into the United States.

The news of the settlement isn’t shocking and had been expected for many months but it did present another instance to call into question Google’s policies when it comes to protecting intellectual property online, which in the case of online pharmacies could be considered reckless. Regardless of opinions, this news now provides me with the opportunity to highlight the potential dangers from buying drugs online and what is being done to ensure the safety of consumers.

While many legitimate websites do exist that provide consumers with lower cost prescription drugs, unfortunately there are just as many, if not more rogue sites that have the look and feel of a legitimate online pharmacy. According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, counterfeit drug sales account for about $75 billion in global sales and many are purchased via an authentic looking online site. An estimated 1 percent to 2 percent of drugs in North America are counterfeit.

Fortunately, in recent years, industry has come together (Google included) to work to target websites that peddle in counterfeit medicines and stop them from doing business. Additionally, in February 2010, Google changed its policy and now only take ads from U.S. pharmacies accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, and from online pharmacies in Canada that are accredited by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. (better late than never?)

The problem of rogue counterfeit websites is not going away anytime soon and to combat the proliferation of these sites is going to take cooperation from both public and private interests and, ultimately, consumers who learn the difference between a legitimate site and illegitimate site.

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