Senator Hatch, before pressuring Colombia over cancer drug compulsory license, wanted one for Napster

(More on Colombia here: /colombia)

Several reports today have emerged from Colombia that Everett Eissenstat, a high-ranking official in the Senate Finance Committee under Senator Orrin Hatch, has overtly threatened Colombia that moving ahead with a compulsory license on leukemia drug imatinib could cause a withholding of financial support for the fragile Colombian peace process. This is a particularly ruthless threat, though given Sen. Hatch’s role as the pharmaceutical industry’s Gregor Clegane, not entirely surprising.

The first report, from Noticias Uno, indicated that Eissenstat delivered the message through the U.S. Embassy to Colombia’s Minister of Health. A second report, from El Espectador, reports the letter was from the Colombian embassy recounting a meeting with Eissenstat.

While the letter in question has not been made available to the public yet [UPDATE: see here for a letter delivered from the Colombian embassy], what is clear from both reports is that Senator Hatch was so opposed to the idea of a compulsory license on the patent for a $40+ Billion cancer drug made by a Swiss company that he was willing to find an extremely sensitive area for the Colombian people and use it as leverage. The peace process in question is the hopeful conclusion to decades of fighting in the country with guerrilla rebels that has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Now flash back to the old days, back in 2001-2002, when Sen. Orrin Hatch was not just your predictable pharmaceutical hatchet man, but was really just a hip afficionado of rock ‘n roll, palling it up with Metallica while advocating for–you guessed it–a compulsory license on copyrighted music that would have provided a legal business model for then-bogeyman Napster.

This from one of several news stories about the Congressional threats to enact a compulsory license if Napster did not obtain licenses from the music industry.

Hill Takes Notice of Napster Legal Fray; Key Lawmakers Warn Music Industry Could Lose Some Copyright Privileges
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Recording industry; Digital music; Copyright
Author: Stern, Christopher
Date: Feb 16, 2001
Start Page: E.03

Now that Napster’s free music-trading service appears to have been pushed to the edge of extinction by a federal court ruling, some key members of Congress are saying it is time for the major record labels to make it easier for people to download songs over the Internet.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said the music industry has failed to deliver a marketplace alternative to Napster Inc., which allows millions of users to trade music online.

“I have been promised consumer rollouts this year,” Hatch said in remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, “but these offerings have been slow in coming and have not been broadly deployed as of yet.”

Hatch warned that some in Congress may attempt to remedy the situation by stripping the music industry of some of its Internet copyright privileges.

This “legal victory for the record labels may prove Pyrrhic or shortsighted from a policy perspective,” Hatch said.

A federal appeals court in California on Monday ruled Napster should be prohibited from allowing its users to swap copyrighted music. The decision threatened to force the company to shut down its free service, leaving its millions of users to scramble to find an alternative.

One possible response by Congress could be the creation a special license, known as a compulsory license, that would allow Web sites to sell music online without seeking the permission of each individual record company, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) said yesterday.

Under a compulsory license, a Web site would have to make a royalty payment to the music labels for each song or album sold. The fees would be set by either Congress or the U.S. Copyright Office, which is a division of the Library of Congress.

. . . [snip]