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February 29, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Open Rights Group and EFF launch Europe-wide anti-term extension petition

Sound Copyright banner
I'm pleased to announce today the launch of a Europe-wide campaign against the extension of copyright term. Thanks to ORG volunteers, and some very nice people I met at FOSDEM, the new campaign site - soundcopyright.eu - is available in English, French and German.

Please visit the site, and sign the petition.

The recording industry has been lobbying for copyright term extension in sound recordings for many years. In the UK, the Government commissioned an independent study to examine whether term extension was a good idea for the UK creative economy. The review found that all the evidence pointed against extending term, and based on this, the UK government rejected the recording industry's call for an extension.

Now the recording industry has taken its fight to Europe, and it looks like they're winning - Commissioner Charlie McCreevy announced in February that he intends to extend the copyright term in sound recordings from 50 to 95 years. This is surprising, since the Commissioner's own Internal Market Directorate have also published evidence that shows that the arguments in favour of extending term lacked substance, especially compared to the reasons for maintaining the status quo.

If you care about this issue, please sign our petition, which states simply:

The following individuals state their opposition to a copyright term extension for sound recordings.

We ask the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers to ensure that policy in this area reflects all concerned stakeholders, including consumer and public interest organisations, and not just the commercial rights-holders who advocate for extended copyright term.

It's time for European citizens to get their voices heard in this debate. Back in 2006, over 1,000 people signed ORG's petition asking the UK government to reject term extension - and it worked. We want ten times that many to sign this new Europe-wide petition. So please, tell as many people as you can about our campaign to stop copyright term extension in Europe. We'll use your support to lobby individual Commissioners, and to ensure that this misguided policy is rejected.

Together, we will stop copyright term extension.

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February 29, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporters update - February 2008

Please follow the link below to read the latest supporters update, which details our activities in the month of February, including great press activity and a list of upcoming events.

Supporters update - February 2008

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February 21, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Fighting copyright term extension: the Home Front

European Commissioner Charlie McCreevy may have surprised us with his rogue call for copyright term extension from Brussels last week, but there are battles to be fought closer to home, too.

On 7 March, a Private Member's Bill proposed by Pete Wishart MP will have its second reading in the House of Commons. It is vital that you write to your MP now to ask him or her to attend the Commons on 7 March and stand up and object to this Bill. If you don't the Bill is likely to pass through to committee stage without debate.

What can you say to persuade your MP to show up to the Commons on a Friday? Perhaps you might point out that all the economic evidence points against term extension. Or that every other UK citizen is expected to contribute to their pension out of income earned in their working life. Or that retrospectively extending copyright term won't encourage Elvis Presley to record any more new tracks. Or that if governments continue to draft intellectual property legislation on behalf of special interest groups, it will only further erode the respect that ordinary citizens have for the letter of the law.

However you choose to pitch it, you should find the ORG briefing pack on copyright term extension useful. And remember to specifically ask your MP to oppose this Bill on 7 March in the House of Commons. Writing to your MP doesn't take long, and we've developed a handy guide to help you get the results you want.

And as for the European front, expect news very soon of how you can get your voice heard as an EU citizen. Together, we can stop copyright term extension, but only if we take action!

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February 19, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Tell them what you think...

Here at ORG we spend a lot of our time responding to Government consultations. In the past month alone we have submitted to Government consultations on both Freedom of Information (click for PDF) and Data Sharing (click for PDF). One of the frustrating things about the consultations process is that each Government department has its own individual consultation site, which makes it hard to find the ones we're interested in.

A few months ago, Harry, who is also one of our excellent volunteers, came up with the idea of collecting them all into one place. We thought this was very clever. In fact, it's something we mentioned in our response to the so-called "consultation on consultations".

Harry has been beavering away and has now launched TellThemWhatYouThink.org, which can give you a dose of RSS goodness (among other things) each time new consultations are published. Enjoy!

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February 15, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Copyright commotions 101: Free event at LSE next month

When the government mailed half the nation's bank details to the darknet at the end of last year, it looked like 2008 was going to be the year privacy issues hit the headlines. But, when it comes to digital rights stories, privacy has been seeing stiff competition from that old foe of the digital society: regressive intellectual property policy.

At the beginning of this week, The Times leaked a DCMS document that promised tough action on illicit filesharers via a disproportionate and ineffective "3 strikes and you're out" model of disconnection.

Then yesterday, over in Brussels, Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy resurrected the zombie of copyright term extension in sound recordings. McCreevy said he "had not seen a convincing reason" why term should not be extended from 50 to 95 years. Must we therefore conclude that he has not read the research commissioned by his own Directorate that shows that term extension makes no sense?

The UK has already come out against copyright term extension. To find out why copyright term extension is a non-starter for the UK's creative economy, download the Open Rights Group briefing pack.

If you're feeling the need to brush up on all of this, then you're in luck. The Oxford Internet Institute, encouraged by ORG Advisory Council member Dr Ian Brown, and in partnership with the London School of Economics, have just announced an afternoon of talks entitled "Musicians, fans and online copyright". Here's the blurb:

Is home downloading killing music? Should Internet Service Providers monitor customers to try and spot copyright infringement, and disconnect downloaders? Do musicians need new laws to benefit from the opportunities of the internet? Join us to debate these questions and more with leading copyright thinkers from the music world, government, consumer groups and universities.

It's happening on Wednesday, 19 March, from 1400-1730 at LSE's Old Theatre on Houghton Street. I'll be speaking, along with confirmed speakers John Kennedy (IFPI), Paul Sanders (Playlouder), Lilian Edwards (Southampton University), Rufus Pollock (Cambridge University) and Michelle Childs (Knowledge Ecology International). Entry is free, but you'll need to register here if you want to attend.

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February 14, 2008 | Becky Hogge

If you love me set me free: Valentine's Day DRM-free mix

It's that special time of year again, when we let the ones we love know how we feel about them. Here at ORG towers, we'd like to dedicate this Valentine's Day to the recording industry. They may not always get it right, but good relationships are about listening, and about giving credit where it's due. So we'd like to use today to thank the recording industry for listening to their customers over the past year and dropping restrictive DRMs.

Back in the analogue age, a starry-eyed lover would sit up all night making a compilation tape for his one true heart. The ORG email lists have been busy resurrecting this tradition over the past week (thanks, guys!), and the result is this - the ORG Valentine's Day love mix. Each one has been suggested by an ORG supporter - and each one has a link to where to download the track DRM-free. Easy listening indeed.

Open Rights Group Valentine's Day love mix

*Note that to get the tracks we've suggested from iTunes Plus DRM-free, you'll need to have an updated version of iTunes

Finally, a note of warning to UK residents - do not try making this compilation at home. Why? Because despite the fact these tracks are DRM-free, creating the compilation on a USB stick or CD would be in breach of the civil provisions of UK copyright law. If you're interested in seeing this law changed, you're in luck - the UK Intellectual Property Office are consulting on changing the law on "format shifting" right now. Help us respond here. And Happy Valentines Day.

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February 12, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Government to ban illegal filesharers from the internet?

The phone lines have been buzzing at ORG headquarters this morning, as the national media have finally wised up to the Government's plans to compel ISPs to disconnect customers who routinely break their terms of service by sharing copyrighted content online. The Times frontpage kicked it all off, having seen leaked copies of next week's expected DCMS green paper The World’s Creative Hub, which contained details of proposed legislation.

"Users suspected of wrongly downloading films or music will receive a warning e-mail for the first offence, a suspension for the second infringement and the termination of their internet contract if caught a third time, under the most likely option to emerge from discussions about the new law.

"Broadband companies who fail to enforce the 'three-strikes' regime would be prosecuted and suspected customers’ details could be made available to the courts. The Government has yet to decide if information on offenders should be shared between ISPs."

The proposals are both disproportionate and doomed to failure. In most families, an internet connection is shared by the entire household - so if Dad gets the connection cut off for sharing movies online, suddenly Mum can't run her business from home, and the kids can't get access to the Web to do their homework. The Times estimates that there are 6 million people in the UK who share files illegally on the web. Any serious move towards disconnecting offenders is likely to play havoc with the Government's ambition to foster an e-enabled society.

What's more, as soon as law enforcers start snooping for IP addresses to pass on to ISPs for disconnection, hardcore filesharers will simply start using encryption to obfuscate their identities. Then they'll develop software that makes it easy for non-technical people to do the same. And then industry will be back to square one.

Industry appears to be ignoring this reality, and talks instead of legislation sending out "a strong message" that filesharing is wrong. But driving illicit filesharers further underground isn't going to earn artists a penny, and will further irritate their fans. Wouldn't it be better if instead of spending time sending out strong messages, industry started investing in new revenue streams which compensate artists fairly and respond to consumer demand for music "on tap"?

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February 07, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Welsh smartcards and TVcatchup.com: ORG on the record

ORG has made two press appearances so far this week. Yesterday, Suw Charman combined her two loves - the Welsh language and protecting your bits - by speaking to BBC Wales about the civil liberties implications of the proposed Welsh smartcard scheme. We're really proud of Suw for breaking the language barrier to question the benefits of the proposed scheme, all in perfect Welsh. Unfortunately, we're unable to link to the TV footage of Suw, but here are two follow-on articles for BBC News Online, one in Welsh and the other in English.

Meanwhile, I appeared on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme today to contribute to a discussion about how consumer demand for new ways of distributing content online can lead (slowly) to changes in intellectual property and licensing practices. The debate was sparked by a new "online PVR" service, TVcatchup.com, which launched at the end of last year. You can listen to the debate for the next seven days, on the BBC's own catchup service.

The Open Rights Group regularly spends time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues. We maintain a complete list (thanks, Glyn!) of all ORG press coverage on the wiki.

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