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RIAA bigwig who architected anti-technology lawsuits is now #2 at the Copyright Office

Karyn Temple Claggett is the new Associate Register of Copyright and Director of Policy & International Affairs for the Copyright Office. Her previous gig was litigating for the RIAA, shutting down technologies like Grokster, which had widespread, non-infringing uses (the standard in the law since the Betamax Supreme Court decision in 1982).

Last night the news came out that the US Copyright Office had now named Karyn Temple Claggett as the Associate Register of Copyright and Director of Policy & International Affairs. While Temple Claggett has actually been at the Copyright Office for a little while as Senior Counsel for Policy and International Affairs, not too long ago she was a hotshot litigator for... the RIAA. In fact, an old bio of hers, from when she was at the RIAA (as VP, Litigation and Legal Affairs), notes that she was instrumental in their ever-present legal campaign against pretty much any innovative technology that comes along:

While at the RIAA, Ms. Temple-Claggett has worked on some of the most high-profile copyright cases brought by copyright owners in recent years, including the Supreme Court Grokster litigation, as well as litigation against LimeWire, XM Satellite Radio and Usenet.com

Former RIAA VP Named 2nd In Command Of Copyright Office[Mike Masnick/Techdirt]

Bad Pharma: account of the bottomless corruption of the pharma industry is a stirring call to arms

I mentioned in September that Ben "Bad Science" Goldacre had a new book out, Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients. I was sure at the time that this would be the usual excellent Goldacre fare -- lucid, thorough, and important. Now that I'm back from my own book tour, I've had a chance to read it and I'm pleased (or rather, furious -- more on this later) to report that this really is the usual, excellent Goldacre stuff.

Bad Pharma is an exhaustive look at the corruption that infests every corner of the pharmaceutical industry, from drug trials to regulatory approval and oversight, to marketing and prescribing and followup research. Systematically, Goldacre lays out the case against pharma, showing that the widespread practices of research suppression, coercion and bribery of journal editors and doctors, propaganda masquerading as mandatory continuing education programmes for doctors, deliberate manipulation of research data, interfering with (or ignoring) regulation, and out-and-out fraud has put all of medicine in jeopardy.

If you're like me, you might be thinking "Oh, yes, of course, it's full of all the usual big-business/regulatory capture stuff," and it is. But what I didn't realise until I read Bad Pharma was that the system isn't just corrupted, it is corrupt. For decades, the evidence for and against medicines that you and I are prescribed every day has been distorted and manipulated to the point where it is now impossible to say whether practically any medicine is better than its competitors, whether it is safe for human consumption -- whether, in other words, we should be taking it.

Goldacre shows that pharma companies routinely suppress the findings of their own trials, cherry-picking their publications to show their products in a flattering light. What's more, something like half of all clinical pharma trials are never disclosed. Think of it: if I ran a "clinical trial" on a coin and was allowed to throw away half of my outcomes, I could show that it came up heads every time. If you didn't know that I chucked out all the trials when it came up tails, you'd think that I'd really hit on something. But that's just for starters. Goldacre's chapter on trial manipulation could be called "How to Lie With Statistics: the Pharma Edition," and it is a thorough catalogue of tricks simple and complex for making pills look like miracle cures, even those that do nothing, that cause harm, or that underperform compared to existing medicines.

Goldacre also documents the manipulation of public perception, showing how clever PR stunts create "diseases" out of thin air, and shows how campaigns to spread awareness of "diseases" like Female Sexual Dysfunction were, in fact, marketing for a planned campaign to get Viagra prescribed to women. This is but one prong of the marketing attack. The other is directed at doctors, and involves everything from fake "classes" taught by eminent physicians that are just marketing for a sponsor's drugs (these classes qualify for as continuing education for doctors, who are required to keep their credentials current in order to continue practicing) to fake journals (produced by real journal publishers to the specifications of pharma companies, who are also their major advertisers), and more tricks, some of which had my jaw scraping my chest.

It goes on and on. Bad Pharma is a well-told tale of how indifference, greed, criminality, impotence, and regulatory capture have worked together to put us all at risk. Rich or poor, doctor or patient, we're all in the dark when it comes to the medicines we take every single day. The billions spent by pharma on the distortion of health science have worked: the companies have made back billions more (providing them with a healthy war-chest for continued corruption), and the rest of us are left without any way of knowing whether our treatments are effective.

It would be easy for Bad Pharma to be a counsel of despair, but it's not. At every turn, Goldacre describes simple measures that could stem the tide of corruption and even reverse it. Pharma companies, for example, have the trial data on all of their clinical trials. Simply forcing them to publish this data would allow researchers to re-run the data on treatments and get better advice to doctors and their patients. Goldacre proposes remedies large and small, ways that all of us could do something to help solve this problem. It's hard to write a book that demonstrates bottomless, vast corruption without leaving the reader feeling helpless, but Bad Pharma will leave you ready to fight for a better world, to demand the professional conduct and regulation that promotes the best health outcomes for all of us.

Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients

Laptop rental companies reach cash-free, pointless settlement with toothless FTC for taking secret naked pictures of customers having sex, harvesting medical records and banking passwords and more

The FTC has settled with seven rent-to-own companies and a software company called DesignerWare of North East Pennsylvania for their role in secretly installing spyware on rental laptops, which was used to take "pictures of children, individuals not fully clothed, and couples engaged in sexual activities."

Under the terms of the settlement, the companies are free to go on engaging in this behavior, but now they'll have to notify customers. They won't pay a fine. The FTC won't say if it's referred any of the companies for criminal prosecution. The rental companies used the spyware to harvest renters' bank passwords, private emails to doctors, medical records, and Social Security numbers, and they used it to pop up deceptive windows on customers' computers to trick them into entering personal information.

Wired's David Kravets has more:

The software, known as Detective Mode, didn’t just secretly turn on webcams. It “can log the keystrokes of the computer user, take screen shots of the computer user’s activities on the computer, and photograph anyone within view of the computer’s webcam. Detective Mode secretly gathers this information and transmits it to DesignerWare, who then transmits it to the rent-to-own store from which the computer was rented, unbeknownst to the individual using the computer,” according to the complaint.

Under the settlement, the companies can still use tracking software on their rental computers, so long as they advise renters, the FTC said. The companies include Aspen Way Enterprises Inc.; Watershed Development Corp.; Showplace Inc., doing business as Showplace Rent-to-Own; J.A.G. Rents LLC, doing business as ColorTyme; Red Zone Inc., doing business as ColorTyme; B. Stamper Enterprises Inc., doing business as Premier Rental Purchase; and C.A.L.M. Ventures Inc., doing business as Premier Rental Purchase.

Rent-to-Own Laptops Secretly Photographed Users Having Sex, FTC Says