January 8, 2007 | By Fred von Lohmann

Back Off, Eli Lilly

On January 4, a federal judge issued an injunction prohibiting the whole world from posting links to important documents about Eli Lilly's drug, Zyprexa, on a public wiki. On January 8, EFF was in court on behalf of one of the wiki's contributors.

Here's the story in a nutshell.

Internal Eli Lilly documents leaked out of a products liability lawsuit about Lilly's best-selling drug, Zyprexa. The New York Times got them, and reported (plus follow up pieces: 1, and 2) that the documents show that Lilly has deliberately downplayed potentially dangerous side effects of the drug, as well as pushing the drug for "off-label" uses not approved by the FDA.

Given the intense public interest in these revelations (the drug has been prescribed to more than 20 million people), it's no surprise that the documents have shown up online, posted to a variety of places. It's also no surprise that someone set up a wiki (zyprexa.pbwiki.com) to publish as-it-happens updates about the controversy.

Eli Lilly then asked the court handling the product liability lawsuits to help them censor these documents off the Internet. Rather than focusing on just the leaker, however, Lilly targeted the wiki. On January 4, the judge granted an injunction barring the wiki from posting information that would "facilitate the dissemination of the documents." (Even before the order issued, Lilly's lawyers sent a takedown notice to pbwiki for hosting the wiki, alleging copyright infringement! Hey, Lilly, you might want to read the Diebold ruling.)

Yes, that's right, that's an injunction barring the whole world from posting links to a wiki. Links to documents about the health risks of a drug prescribed to more than 20 million people.

That's what First Amendment lawyers call a prior restraint. Just like the courts couldn't stop newspapers from publishing the Pentagon Papers, so, too, they may not prohibit the public from linking to these documents on a wiki.

EFF went to court yesterday on behalf of a contributor to the wiki to make exactly this point. The judge refused to amend his order, but will be giving us another chance on Tuesday, January 16.

In the meantime, if you or anyone you know has taken Zyprexa, you may want to read The New York Times stories based on these internal Lilly documents. Because you can bet that if Lilly wants to censor them off the Internet, there's probably something worth reading in them.

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