Supporters of a bill designed to block access to Web sites trafficking in counterfeit or pirated merchandise are pulling out the stops in their public relations campaign.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce began circulating a testimonial from a woman who says her friend died as a result of taking prescription medicine she bought over the Internet (you can watch her video above).
Glenda Billerbeck, a resident of Rhinebeck, Iowa, says Marcia Mooty Bergeron died in 2006, a day after Billerbeck concluded a visit to Bergeron's home in Canada. According to the statement from Billerbeck, her friend relied on the Internet for much of her shopping. Shortly before Billerbeck departed, Bergeron was complaining of flu symptoms.
"The coroner's report determined that my dear friend had died of cardiac arrhythmia caused by metal toxicity," Billerbeck wrote. "Translation: the drugs found in Marcia's system contained highly metallic and toxic material. Her medications were counterfeit and they poisoned her to death."
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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been a big supporter of the Protect IP Act, the legislation introduced into the U.S. Senate earlier this year that would speed up the process of shutting down so-called rogue Web sites. The bill would give the Department of Justice the power to order Internet service providers to block access in this country to sites accused of distributing counterfeit goods or engaging in intellectual-property theft. The bill has wide support among retailers, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Motion Picture Association of America, as well as software makers, trade and labor unions, and manufacturers of consumer goods.
Many proponents of free content have argued that protecting physical merchandise is more important than protecting digital materials and shouldn't be wrapped together in the Protect IP bill. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who opposes the legislation, said in January that he is all for combating counterfeiting, but he suggested that copyright protection was undeserving of the same government attention.
"Senator Wyden has long worked with U.S. industry on combating the trafficking of counterfeit goods like fake shoes and apparel," Wyden's office said in a statement. "But going after trade in real merchandise can be done in a variety of effective ways, like inspecting shipping containers at American ports of entry to identify and seize fake merchandise.
"Unfortunately," the statement continued, "the content industry has piggybacked on the legitimate efforts of apparel designers to combat counterfeit goods and now threatens the integrity of the Internet."