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August 29, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporter update - August 2008

Neil GaimanHere's the August update for all you supporters and soon-to-be-supporting readers. Click through for details of our 24 October event with Neil Gaiman and a whole heap more.

Supporter update - August 2008

Thanks to Jutta for the image.

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August 21, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Commission adviser accuses Barroso of intentionally misleading European policy-makers and citizens on copyright

When the European Commission put forward their proposal to retrospectively extend the copyright term granted to sound recordings, locking away vast swathes of our cultural heritage in a commercial vacuum for 45 years, it was clear that they had rejected all the expert evidence in favour of voodoo economics.

Now Professor Bernt Hugenholtz has written a letter to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso asking why. Huggenholtz, Director of the Institute for Information Law (IViR), which was tasked by the European Commission to look into the arguments for and against extending copyright term, says his team were "surprised" to discover that their studies had been completely ignored, and that statements the Commission have made that "there was no need for external expertise" in drafting the proposal were "patently untrue". He goes on (with our emphasis):

As you are certainly aware, one of the aims of the 'Better Regulation' policy that is part of the Lisbon agenda is to increase the transparency of the EU legislative process. By wilfully ignoring scientific analysis and evidence that was made available to the Commission upon its own initiative, the Commission's recent Intellectual Property package does not live up to this ambition. Indeed, the Commission's obscuration of the IViR studies and its failure to confront the critical arguments made therein seem to reveal an intention to mislead the Council and the Parliament, as well as the citizens of the European Union.

In doing so the Commission reinforces the suspicion, already widely held by the public at large, that its policies are less the product of a rational decision-making process than of lobbying by stakeholders. This is troublesome not only in the light of the current crisis of faith as regards the European lawmaking institutions, but also - and particularly so - in view of European citizens' increasingly critical attitudes towards intellectual property law.

The letter goes on to demand that the Commission fully inform the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers of the findings of the IViR studies. You can read it in full here.

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August 19, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Bristol calling

Update: Nice to see the pledge for a local event in Bristol has already matured. Seeing how easy that was, maybe you'd like to organise a local event in your home town too?

One of our most proactive supporters is looking for people to come down to a Bristol event. If you're in the south west of England and want to find out more about ORG, meet others who are interested in our issues and maybe also get more involved then please sign up to the pledge. The host wants 15 digital rights enthusiasts to make the event worthwhile so please sign up if you're around the Bristol area. We want to come and talk at events arranged by ORG supporters and hope others will take this not-so-subtle hint to arrange more local events.

Its been about six weeks since we launched the ORG-GRO supporter drive. We're now over the 900 fivers mark and closing fast on the 1,000 milestone. To put the numbers another way, we've raised an additional (projected) £9,300 per year from individual supporters, which goes at least some of the way to cover our (thrifty) costs. Its really gratifying to know that more and more people think enough of our work to put their hands in their pocket so we can keep up the pressure. Thanks to everyone who's recently joined Open Rights and also to our current supporters who've either committed more cash themselves or convinced others to join ORG. Also, an extra special thanks to the bloggers who are using our widgetometer to spread the ORG-GRO message; check out the growing list by following this link, where you can also learn how to host the widgetometer on your blog.

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August 18, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Help ORG respond to UK consultation on illicit p2p

Last month, the Government announced it would be consulting with the public on ways to curb illicit filesharing. ORG will be developing a response to the consultation over the next two months and we'd like your help.

We’ve put the Executive Summary of the consultation document online. Please use our interactive consultation tool to tell us what you think of the Government’s options for combating illicit filesharing. The Government’s "preferred" option is to have codes of practice designed by ISPs and rightsholders in collaboration with OfCom, which oblige ISPs to take action against subscribers to their network believed to infringing copyright over p2p. This includes taking action against "repeat infringers", although the document is short on detail about what such action might entail. Several other options are outlined:

  • Option A1: Streamlining the existing process by requiring ISPs to provide personal data relating to a given IP address to rights holders on request without them needing to go to Court.
  • Option A2: Requiring ISPs (by law) to take direct action against users who are identified (by the rights holder) as infringing copyright through P2P
  • Option A3: Allocating a third party body to consider evidence provided by rights holders and to direct ISPs to take action against individual users as required, or to take action directly against individual users.
  • Option A4: Requiring that ISPs allow the installation of filtering equipment that will block infringing content (to reduce the level of copyright infringement taking place over the internet) or requiring ISPs themselves to install filtering equipment that will block infringing content.

Options A3 and A4 mirror developments in other countries in Europe, such as the Olivennes Bill in France, or court cases in Belgium and Ireland brought by rightsholders to compel ISPs to install filtering equipment. Click here to leave your comments on the Government’s options for dealing with illicit filesharers. You can download the full text of the consultation document here [pdf].

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August 08, 2008 | Michael Holloway

More reasons to join ORG

Book image

The good news is that our supporter recruitment drive is continuing apace. The fundometer is currently showing a winsome 881 and more supporters are joining up every second of every minute of every day (well, sort of). The great news is that lovely bloggers are encouraging their readers to donate to ORG by writing nice things about us. Seems our fiendish offer of t-shirts and hardware is working a treat. Other kindly folks are auctioning exclusive goodies to donate the proceeds to Open Rights.

The very best news is that Professor Ross Anderson of FIPR has generously promised us three signed copies of the new edition of his epic book Security Engineering to lure in new supporters. Thanks, Ross! To be in with a chance of securing your copy, just sign up and write 'I love Ross' in the 'How you heard about ORG' field. We'll give books to the three new supporters whose donations reach us first.

For those not yet familiar with this mighty work, a testimonial from Bruce 'security guru' Schneier should interest you: "If you're even thinking of doing any security engineering, you need to read this book." Another clear sign of its quality is a reference to our 2007 Elections Report. Want to find out more? Best join up then.

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July 31, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporter update - July 2008

Here's a link to this month's supporter update, which is a bumper edition with news of our blooming supporter drive and an extremely busy campaigning month for ORG. Please read and give us some feedback on how we're doing .

Link to July 2008 supporter update.

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July 29, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Next election for Mayor of London to be counted manually?

Will the 2012 election for Mayor of London be counted manually? Yes, at least, that’s the assumption the UK’s elections watchdog would like City Hall to make. The Electoral Commission’s report into the London Elections [pdf] has called for the Greater London Returning Officer to carry out a cost benefit analysis of options for counting ballot papers at the 2012 elections "as a matter of urgency" (mirroring the key recommendation from ORG’s recent report), and to start from the assumption that the vote will be counted manually.

The statutory report, published earlier this month, vindicates many more of the observations made by Open Rights Group volunteers in our 2008 London Elections report. The Electoral Commission are "extremely concerned" that they have not been given full access to audits of the e-counting system commissioned from KPMG before the election, demanding that any future technical audit include a requirement for full publication. They write:

"We recognise that commercial suppliers... may wish to protect their commercial interests. However, such wishes should never take priority over the interests of electors"

The Commission also raise the same concerns as ORG over the ballot box verification process, and the discrepancies observed between figures for ballot papers issued at the polling station, and ballot papers scanned in the count centre. They recommend that any future e-count allow count centre staff to record reasons for such discrepancies, and provide "verification statements" to candidates, party agents and observers. They concur with our analysis that the system could have been recording blank ballots as valid votes. And they also touch on the fact, detailed in the ORG report, that nearly 1,000 votes for London Mayor from the Merton and Wandsworth constituency never made it into the final result because of a transmission error.

Central to the ORG report were concerns around transparency, and the Electoral Commission report emphasises loss of transparency as one of the "hidden costs" of electronic counting. They point out that observers at electronic counts need to increase their technical knowledge in order to understand what is going on, because:

"Candidates, agents and observers act as a crucial check on the accuracy and integrity of the count process, both for their own benefit and for the wider benefit of the vast majority of electors who are not able to physically attend the count."

Last year, the Electoral Commission recommended that no further pilots of e-voting or e-counting take place until the Government have released "a robust, publicly available strategy that has been the subject of extensive consultation". In this month’s report, they reinforce this recommendation, demanding in addition a full cost benefit analysis for the use of electronic counting.

Will the Ministry of Justice listen? Despite expectations that a strategy document on e-voting and e-counting could be available before the Summer recess, no such document has emerged. And it seems their idea of extensive consultation is one question hidden in a pretty unrelated consultation (on remote electronic voting – a completely barmy idea that even the USA won’t touch with a barge pole). We can only hope that the Government listen to this latest Electoral Commission report – and to the growing consensus that "modernising" elections doesn’t have to mean expensive computer systems that hide the workings of our most important democratic ritual in a black box away from public scrutiny.

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July 28, 2008 | Michael Holloway

ORG Growth - 825 fivers and counting!

Mo' money As you'll have noticed if you've been tracking the ORG fundometer, since launching the ORG-GRO supporter drive three short weeks ago, we've scored a phenomenal 10% growth, as well as a pile of one-off cash donations. This means we're on track to double the number of monthly fivers we receive to support our work during 2008. Thanks to everyone so far who's put their hands in their pockets for ORG. And if you're yet to pledge your monthly fiver, please do so now.

Some of these fantastic early results are due to volunteer efforts, such as Danny O'Brien (pictured)'s pledge to blog every day for a month if five people sign up to ORG (he's also pledged to resuscitate NTK - ntk.net - if ten more of his readers agree to give ORG a tenner a month) and the posse of ORGsters (Glyn, Sheila and Richard) who spread the good word at LUG Radio Live. Just as pleasing is the fact that the extra work we're putting into our financial stability has not limited our campaigning.

We're also excited to announce that the volunteer who attracts the most new supporters will win an Eec PC, donated by the kind people at Asus. If you convince someone to join ORG, be sure that they note your supporter ID on their sign-up form. We'll keep a league table of supporters for the next few months and announce a winner on ORG Day (19 November) 2008. For more details, see the ORG-GRO page. Also, don't forgot that there's a mystery gift (ooh!) for new supporters who sign up to donate ten pounds a month, and also for existing supporters who increase their donation level to ten pounds a month.

Thanks to Bowbrick for the image.

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