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Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc.
A Voice for Private Physicians Since 1943
Omnia pro aegroto

August 29, 2000


Contact: Kathryn Serkes (202) 333-3855


Injunction Could Lead to Shutdown of Medical Web Sites

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) has filed a "friend-of-the-court" brief supporting Napsterís appeal of a preliminary injunction.

"The same faulty reasoning against Napster that would prohibit the free exchange of data could lead to the shutdown of all medical Web sites," said Kathryn Serkes, public affairs counsel for AAPS. "This ruling protects special interests at the expense of the publicís access to unbiased, quality medical care."

The AAPS brief, filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, cites online research of the pros and cons of the trademarked drug Ritalin: as an example:

"Suppose a mother has a boy with attention-deficit disorder, and is considering a recommendation that he take Ritalin. A quick search on Yahoo normally yields a variety of sites...that are critical of the use of Ritalin for a variety of reasons...What if the owner of Ritalin asserted its intellectual property rights, and demanded that Yahoo only provide authorized links on Ritalin? The outcome would be that criticism of the use of Ritalin would be effectively silenced."

The brief goes on to warn:

"Health-related Web sites, for example, often discuss potentially life-saving therapies approved in foreign countries but not approved in the United States, and if the injunction against Napster is upheld then those Web sites may be shut down as well."

AAPS has long fought claims of special interests to exclusive copyrights that harm the public, such as the American Medical Associationís claim to exclusive copyright of, and royalties from, the CPT coding database that the government forces physicians to use in filing claims for reimbursement from federal health programs.

In fact, one of the legal precedents cited in the Napster brief is Practice Management v. AMA.

In 1997, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that the AMA had no legal right to exclusive publishing of their CPT coding database.

But powerful special interests moved to usurp the publicís interest. "Lo and behold, six months after the court ruling, a bill [HR 354] was introduced in Congress, at the behest of the AMA, that would allow their claim of exclusive rights to this valuable data. They could sell it at enormous profits, and exclude their competitors from accessing it.," said Serkes. AAPSís opposition to the bill was supported by more than 100 organizations from Columbia University to AT&T.

"These court-ordered strangleholds such as the Napster injunction create multi-million dollar monopolies for special interests. They restrict access to information, and add unnecessary costs to the public," said Serkes. "This injunction should be reversed."

AAPS is a non-partisan association of physicians in all specialities dedicated to the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship since 1943.


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