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September 08, 2008 | Louisiana

ORG is looking for new Board members

Update: The deadline for applications has now been extended to Tuesday 28 October.


The Open Rights Group's Board of Directors is responsible for overseeing all aspects of its work, from payroll to policy decisions. We are very pleased to have in place a committed and expert group of volunteers to undertake these works. And with the organisation approaching its third birthday we are looking for new additions to join the team.

The first requirement, of course, is for applicants willing to dedicate their time to building a sustainable digital rights organisation that can continue to make a real difference in the way the media and policy-makers approach networked, digital technologies. This is a position that requires serious dedication – at least two days out of every month plus the commitment to attend monthly evening meetings, and quarterly Advisory Council meetings. It is also a formal position – collectively, the Board ensures that ORG remains solvent and financially strong and takes responsibility for ensuring that ORG activities comply with all legal requirements. The position is unpaid, although out-of-pocket expenses will be refunded. This year, we are particularly interested in applicants with fundraising and chairing experience.

The role promises significant rewards to the right applicant:

  • Playing a major part in the success of an innovative young campaigning organisation that has made and will continue to make significant impact on the UK's politics and media.
  • Being at the cutting edge of politics and technology.
  • Working with a strong community of like-minded staff, advisers and volunteers committed to strengthening civil liberties in the digital era.

If you're interested in applying, take a look at our detailed job description.

Deadline for applications is Tuesday 30 September Tuesday 28 October 2008

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September 05, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Performers likely to get as little as 50¢ a year from increased term of copyright

Last month the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) asked for comments on the European Commission's proposal to almost double the term of copyright protection on sound recordings. The Commission's proposal [pdf] is flimsy, misleading, and peppered with contradictions. Our submission [pdf] asks the UKIPO to reject it in the strongest terms.

Our submission shows that for the vast majority of performers the projected extra sales income resulting from term extension is likely to be meagre: from as little as 50¢ each year in the first ten years, to as "much" as €26.79 each year. That's because most of the gains (89.5%) will go to the top 20% of recording artists. Meanwhile the major labels will be dividing up millions in extra handouts every year.

What's more, performing artists will make no extra revenue from radio airplay and other income streams arising from so-called "secondary remuneration rights", and may even make less. The Commission assumes that fees paid by users of recordings, e.g. broadcasters, will remain constant. That means the amount of earnings available to performers will not be any bigger - it will just be sliced more thinly and distributed longer to more rightsholders. Performers will not earn any more over their life time, and are likely to earn less, as money will be transferred from the living to the estates of the dead.

The proposal is set to cost hundreds of millions to consumers, with repercussions to the public interest, follow-on innovators and cultural diversity. It serves as a windfall for an industry the Commission would have us believe is immune from simple economic logic. No wonder Europe's leading copyright thinker - and adviser to the European Commission - has accused the Commission of wilfully misleading the European Parliament, and the citizens of the European Union.

Thanks to everyone who helped us respond - you can download our final submission here. Thanks to yonmacklein for the image.

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September 04, 2008 | Michael Holloway

How to win friends and influence people (to support ORG)

Our fundraising campaign, ORG-GRO, continues apace. And although initial results look good - we've gone from 750 to over 900 fivers in two months - we've still got a long way to go before we reach our target of 1,500 monthly fivers by the end of the year. "We" means you, too - ORG needs the help of the whole community to get new people engaged with digital rights issues.

So it's time to start badgering your friends and colleagues. We've put together this short film to show you how it's done (it's acted by members of the ORG volunteer community - can you tell?). We hope it will inspire you to start conversations about digital rights around the water cooler, in the pub and anywhere else you think potential ORG supporters might be lurking. The video also explains some of the core issues ORG campaigns on, so why not send a link to it to your friends?


Who's Watching Who? from Dean Whitbread on Vimeo.

Anyone who refers three new supporters will win themselves a t-shirt and at the end of the year, the top referrer wins an Asus Eee PC. Find out more about how to claim your booty here.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped out with the video: Felix, Harry, Patricia, Glyn, Mark, Tom, another Mark, Rani and, most especially, Dean.

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August 29, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Shedding light on the Intercept Modernisation Programme

Over the course of the Summer, several news sources have reported a radical new surveillance plan afoot at the Home Office, dubbed the "Intercept Modernisation Programme". Starting with The Times, who broke the story in May, reports have claimed that as part of this programme a new national database would be created containing the electronic communications data of the entire population.

Despite extensive press coverage since then, the Home Office have remained tight-lipped. The Communications Data Bill, which is on the Draft Legislative Programme for the next Parliamentary session, will, they say, have more details of the proposed scheme. According to a written answer submitted to the Earl of Northesk:

"the objective of the Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP) is to maintain the UK's lawful intercept and communications data capabilities in the changing communications environment. It is a cross-government programme, led by the Home Office, to ensure that our capability to lawfully intercept and exploit data when fighting crime and terrorism is not lost. It was established in response to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister's national security remit in 2006."

And it looks like the Home Office have already been recruiting civil servants to help communicate with "stakeholders" about the scheme. This (Goggle cached) job description reveals that:

"The IMP has been set up to deliver a programme which will maintain the UK's capability to obtain and exploit Lawful Intercept (LI) product and Communications Data (CD) during and beyond the change over from circuit-switched to IP based networks. The programme is a major, multi year undertaking incorporating the efforts of a broad community of stakeholders. It will also be utilising a range of new technologies and techniques."

But will the IMP include a centralised database? Certainly the Information Commissioner felt moved enough by the speculation to warn [pdf] that:

"If the intention is to bring all mobile and internet records together under one system, this would give us serious concerns and may well be a step too far. We are not aware of any justification for the state to hold every UK citizen’s phone and internet records. We have real doubts that such a measure can be justified, or is proportionate or desirable."

ORG decided to test our much-fought for Freedom of Information laws to see if they could help us find out more. You can read the FOI request we've sent to the Home Office here (with thanks to mySociety and their excellent new FOI tool WhatDoTheyKnow?). We'll keep you posted when we receive a response. In the meantime, our campaign resources wiki page will stay updated with any emerging news of the scheme.

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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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