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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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February 06, 2008 | Suw Charman Anderson

CBDE special guests announced

Update: David Bausola of Imagination (www.imagination.com) and Rob Myers - the conceptual engineers behind the commercial media production model that uses Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike as in Ford of Europe's Where are the Joneses? - will both be joining Tom and John (see below) for our panel Q&A at the Monday seminar

Over the last few months here at ORG Towers, we've been working hard on the Creative Business in the Digital Era research project, examining the way in which businesses are using open intellectual property (IP) as a central pillar of their business model.

The project culminates in three free seminars in central London during March - a full day on 17th March, and two evening seminars on 18th/19th (with roughly the same content in each) - where we'll talk about what we've discovered about open IP businesses, and talk to people who are actually giving stuff away whilst also making money from it. We've managed to recruit three fabulous guest speakers:

Monday 17 March - Tom Reynolds, blogger, ambulance technician and author of Blood, Sweat and Tea, published under Creative Commons licence and in paper by The Friday Project. - John Buckman, entrepreneur, musician and founder of CC music label Magnatune.

Tuesday 18 March (evening) - Tom Reynolds graces our presence again.

Wednesday 19 March (evening) - David Bausola, the creative mind behind interactive online comedy Where are the Joneses?

The seminar is aimed at people within the creative industry - e.g. music, publishing, film, TV, radio, visual arts, photography - and from any size of company, whether they are freelances or a C-level exec. The course materials are all being prepped out in the open, under CC licence.

As mentioned, the seminar is free to attend - if you are interested, all you need to do is to fill in our application form.

If you're interested yourself, please do apply! If you have a blog, podcast or Twitter account and would like to mention our seminar, please do. And if you know of anyone who might be interested in coming, feel free to tell them about it.

Our deadline for applications is 15th February, so apply now!

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January 31, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporters update - January 2008

Please follow the link below to read this month's supporters update, which is a veritable feast of links and knowledge on ORG's activities for the past month.

Supporters update - January 2008

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January 29, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Internships with Open Rights Group

Are you a student thinking ahead to the long summer months? Are you itching to contribute to an exciting and socially beneficial cause? If you fit this bill and are interested in computer science, politics, law or culture online then come and intern for Open Rights Group.

Interning for ORG gives students and graduates an invaluable insight into the day-to-day running of the lobbying / campaigning profession. Your responsibilities will be tailored to your particular skills and interests. Past interns have helped develop web services that facilitate civic engagement, designed promotional and briefing literature, researched public consultation submissions - and plenty more besides.

Ideally, you will be able to work from our central London office but remote participation is also possible. We are interested in applications from both part-time and full-time candidates. You will be expected to work closely with our 2 core staff as well as the wider volunteer community.

If you are interested then mail info at openrightsgroup.org with your CV and an outline of your interest in digital rights.

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January 28, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Happy Data Protection Day!

What... you didn't know? Today is Data Protectection Day, an initiative of the Council of Europe, designed to be:

"an occasion for European citizens to become more aware of personal data protection and of what their rights and responsibilities are in that regard."

But, in this regard, UK citizens have been rather spoiled of late. And last weekend was no exception: The Daily Telegraph revealed that HMRC had advised certian high profile celebrities, MPs and royals to refrain from using its online tax return system amid concerns that their confidential details would be put at risk, and a Financial Times editorial called for the government to rethink its wrong-headed ID card scheme because of the opportunity for abuse of personal details on an undreamed of scale. If their newspapers are anything to go by, then, it looks like the British people have never been more aware of their data protection rights.

But are your elected representatives aware of your concerns about data protection? You might consider using today to make sure. If you haven't already, write to them and let them know your thoughts on the Government's privacy timebomb.

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