EFF protects bloggers rights as “press” and against prior restraint laws


The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a US-based civil rights organisation set-up by Mitch Kapor and John Perry Barlow, to protect online rights, has defended the right of bloggers to be considered “press”, and to stop prior restraint laws gagging some media from linking to information held by Eli Lilly.

The case initially brought against US psych-rights activists, by Eli Lilly, after they released documents on controversial drug Zyprexa onto the internet. The drug has been associated with diabetes and weight-gain, and is prescribed by doctors for mania and so-called “schizofrenia. In some some cases the drug has also been associated with forced outpatient commitment laws, and the use of treatment as torture.

I publish the EFF release below and attach the outcome of the case, which has not been covered by South African press, any wonder why?

EFF Fights to Unmuzzle Citizen Journalists

Free Speech Rights At Stake in Legal Battle Over Controversial Drug Zyprexa

New York – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told a judge Wednesday to remove the legal muzzle on citizen journalists caught up in a court battle over documents relating to the controversial prescription drug Zyprexa. EFF argues that the injunction against publication of the documents online is prior restraint on their free speech and a violation of First Amendment rights.

EFF’s client posted links on a “wiki” to electronic copies of damaging internal Eli Lilly documents about Zyprexa. The documents leaked from an ongoing product liability lawsuit against Eli Lilly over Zyprexa and were the basis for a front-page story in the New York Times in December of 2006. Eli Lilly has since obtained an injunction that forbids 11 individuals and five websites from posting or linking to the documents. In a brief filed with the court Wednesday, EFF explains that this is the digital equivalent of a “stop the presses” order on individuals who were not involved in the leak. The documents remain readily available on the Internet from a variety of sources.

“The millions of patients who use Zyprexa, and their doctors, deserve access to these documents,” said EFF Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann. “The First Amendment guarantees citizen-journalists the right to publish truthful information on matters of public concern, just as it does for newspapers.”

Zyprexa is Eli Lilly’s best selling drug, used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. According to news reports, the internal documents show that Eli Lilly intentionally downplayed the drug’s side effects, including weight gain, high blood sugar, and diabetes, and marketed the drug for “off-label” uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Eli Lilly has paid more than $1.2 billion to resolve lawsuits involving Zyprexa.

The matter has been submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein in the Eastern District of New York. A decision is expected shortly.

For the full brief:
http://eff.org/legal/cases/zyprexa/brief_opposing_injunction.pdf

For more on the Eli Lilly Zyprexa litigation:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/zyprexa/

Contact:

Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
fred@eff.org

Eli Lilly Loses Effort to Censor Zyprexa Documents Off the Internet

Judge Rescinds Injunction Against Wiki, Other Websites

New York – A U.S. District Court judge today refused Eli Lilly’s request to ban a number of websites from publishing leaked documents relating to Zyprexa, Eli Lilly’s top-selling drug. Although the judge rejected the First Amendment arguments made by a variety of individuals eager to publish the documents, the court concluded that “it is unlikely that the court can now effectively enforce an injunction against the Internet in its various manifestations, and it would constitute a dubious manifestation of public policy were it to attempt to do so.” The order is a victory for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which represents an anonymous individual who was previously barred by the court’s earlier orders from posting links to the Zyprexa documents on the zyprexa.pbwiki.com wiki.

The Zyprexa documents were leaked from an ongoing product liability lawsuit against Eli Lilly. The internal documents allegedly show that Eli Lilly intentionally downplayed the drug’s side effects, including weight gain, high blood sugar, and diabetes, and marketed the drug for “off-label” uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The documents were the basis for a front-page story in the New York Times in December of last year, and electronic copies are readily available from a variety of Internet sources. EFF’s client posted links to one set of copies on a wiki devoted to the controversy that were part of extensive, in-depth analysis from a number of citizen journalists.

“This ruling makes it clear that Eli Lilly cannot invoke any court orders in its futile efforts to censor these documents off the Internet,” said EFF Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann. “We are disappointed, however, that the judge failed to appreciate that its previous orders constituted prior restraints in violation of the First Amendment.”

The court stayed its ruling for 10 days in order to permit an appeal. Zyprexa is Eli Lilly’s best selling drug, used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Eli Lilly has paid more than $1.2 billion to resolve lawsuits involving Zyprexa.

For the full order:
http://eff.org/legal/cases/zyprexa/zyprexa_judgement.pdf

For more on the Eli Lilly Zyprexa litigation:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/zyprexa/

Contact:

Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
fred@eff.org

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