Thursday, April 3, 2008

'Round the Sphere: Free Speech No Match for Big Pharma

There's a brouhaha going around the Pharma BlogosphereTM about an anti-GSK YouTube video posted by Bob Fiddaman, a UK blogger. Several denizens of the Sphere have taken up the cause as a "free speech" issue:

Glaxo, An Angry Blogger And Free Speech

and this list provided by PharmaGossip (find the links here):

  • Does GSK Love Bad Publicity? (Clin Psych Blog)
  • Video sets GlaxoSmithKline Hounds to Intimidate British Blogger (AHRP Blog)
  • This U.S.A. blog supports Bob Fiddaman (Soulful Sepulcher)
  • Glaxo Smith Kline (Bipolar Blast)
  • It's Groundhog Day for bullying by GlaxoSmithKline over Seroxat (Scientific Misconduct Blog)
  • GSK Lawyers target Seroxat campaigner Bob Fiddaman (Seroxat Secrets)
  • Tony Nunn
  • Intimidation: a standard tactic? (Matt Holford)
  • Glaxo Goes After British Blogger's Video (Furious Seasons)
  • GSK Video - The Aftermath
At issue, of course, is stifling of dissent. The weapon used is trademark infringement and copyright. Fiddaman used the GSK logo in his video and hence was nailed for unauthorized use of a trademark.

It's very intimidating getting a letter like this from a fortune 500 corporation with a legion of lawyers at their beck and call. Bloggers, unlike journalists working for other big corporations with their own legions of lawyers, have very little choice but to comply.

Also, the ,aw makes some exception for the use of a trademark in the press, I believe. By press, I mean people who own real presses like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Fox News. Bloggers don't qualify!

[Just few ways that journalism differ from bloggism and why a blogger, working on his or her own, can never be as resourceful and his speech as protected as a journalist's free speech.]

I have also received a few cease and desist letters, but none from big pharma companies, thank God!

Most recently, I received a letter regarding my use of a photo showing a Jarvik rowing double on the set where a Lipitor commercial was being shot. You recall all the hoopla about Jarvik not being a rower, right? If not, see "Jarvik Can't Prescribe and Can't Row a Boat, But Can He Sell?". I can't be sure, but maybe Pfizer was behind it.

This photo was copyright, so I was told, and I must remove it. So I did. No big deal, the cat was already out of the box and Jarvik was already off the air.

I wonder, however, how many other bloggers out there have received such letters and complied without having any other recourse?

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