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September 28, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporter meetup in Blackpool this Monday, 1 October

If you live local to Blackpool, please come along for a drink and meet the ORG team this Monday evening. We’ll be in town for our fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference - part of the “Should we trust electronic elections” roadshow - and are really keen to meet ORG supporters in the area and find out about your digital rights concerns.

We’re meeting at 19.00, Monday 1 October at The Saddle Inn, 286 Whitegate Drive, Blackpool FY3 9PH. So if you’re a local activist or want to become more engaged with digital rights issues, come down for a chat.

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September 25, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporter meetup in Bournemouth this Thursday

If you live local to Bournemouth, please come along for a drink and meet the ORG staff this Thursday night. We're in town for our fringe event at the Labour Party Conference - part of the "Should we trust electronic elections" roadshow - and are really keen to meet ORG supporters in the area and find out about your digital rights concerns.

We’re meeting at 18.30, Thursday 27 September at The Inferno, 38 Holdenhurst Rd, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH8 8AD. So if you're a local activist or want to become more engaged with digital rights issues, come down for a chat.

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September 20, 2007 | Michael Holloway

GikII 2 - law, laughs and geekery

Instigated at Edinburgh AHRC in 2006, this year's GikII - a one day workshop on the intersections between law, technology and popular culture - took place yesterday at University College, London. Its focus on intellectual property and IT issues is typical of an academic conference, but the irreverent subject matter and rowdy audience mark this out from average scholarly events. Thanks to Lilian, Andres, Ian and the other organisers for a fascinating day. I'm already looking forward to next year's event, which Ian agreed to stage at the Oxford Internet Institute. ORG supporters with a legal interest should take a breeze through the papers, and consider signing up for next year's event when it's announced.

Here's a flavour of the papers i enjoyed most:

  • Faith Lawrence discussed community-standards issues, using LiveJournal as her case study, where the feisty fandom and freedom of speech communities had to battle hard against management's efforts to sanitise user-profiles.

  • Lilian Edwards' and Ian Brown's presentation, 'Cyberstalking 2.0', praised Facebook's sophisticated efforts to offer users privacy, but criticised the default-settings for publicity.

  • Ray Corrigan gave us the fascinating parable of a 6th century IP dispute, complete with mythical warrior-princes and 'The Battle of The Book'. The parallels with today's IP wars are clear - best check his new 'digital rights' book if you want to learn more.

  • Simon Deane-Jones of Zopa treated the audience to a run-through of the dramatic changes 'Web 2.0' and the rise of e-pressure is causing to the political landscape. The vigilantes of political life are well-represented by moveon.org and tacticalvoter.net, whilst community spirit is reborn with fixmystreet.com.

  • And finally, a doff of the cap to Jordan Hatcher, who stunned the audience with an analysis of the application of copyright law to tattoos.

The list of papers may soon be joined by powerpoint presentations.

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September 18, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Towards proper regulation of the DNA database

Today, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics launched their report on the regulation of the National DNA Database. The authors emphasised balancing ethical values, such as liberty, autonomy and privacy, against the database's benefits to law-enforcement. The headlines echo our own submission to the review:

  • Only people convicted of a crime should be permanently recorded, except those charged with serious violent or sexual offences.
  • Police should not be given powers to sample and store DNA, without consent, from people arrested for 'non-recordable' offences.
  • Those who volunteer their DNA (e.g. witnesses) should be able to request - without providing a reason - the removal of their DNA.
  • Unless there is a good reason to preserve it, children's DNA should be removed from the NDNAD on request.
  • Lawyers and juries should be given more help to understand the meaning of DNA evidence.
  • Familial searching should not be practiced unless it is necessary and proportionate.
  • Ethnic inferences should not be part of routine procedure.
  • The NDNAD should have an independent ethics and governance framework.
  • The regulation of all forensic databases, including oversight of research and other access requests, should be given statutory basis.

Concerns were expressed at this morning's launch event that Nuffield's recommendations do not go far enough. Terri Dowty (ARCH) argued that children must be given the right to exclude their own DNA from the register, rather than depending on their - not always reliable - guardians and the courts to aid in the removal of their genetic make-up. Helen Wallace (Genewatch) argued, in line with the Human Genetics Commission, against costly preservation of samples once the necessary profiles are extracted.

Despite these concerns, implementing these recommendations would significantly improve the current position. The Home Office is currently evaluating the aged statutory foundation of this database (the PACE Review) and is due to pronounce on the issue in December 2007.

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September 17, 2007 | Becky Hogge

ORG @ Liberal Democrat party conference 2007

ORG arrives at the Lib Dem party conferenceConference season got off to a fine start this weekend, as ORG set off around the country to raise awareness among grassroots party activists of the issues e-voting and e-counting pose for our democracy.

The panelJohn Pugh MP, Tom Hawthorne (Electoral Commission) and ORG's very own Jason Kitcat were expertly chaired by William Heath, and addressed a packed house. Some in the audience had had direct experience of the May pilots, some had seen the chaos in Scotland, others came with experience of postal voting, or simply with doubts about how a dramatic change like electronic voting would affect their campaigning work.

questions from the floorYou can download audio of the proceedings in full (mp3, ogg) and there are more pictures from the event in the ORG Flickr pool.

Thanks to everyone who made the event run so smoothly, thanks to all the local supporters who showed up afterwards to celebrate with us and thanks to Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd for giving us the financial support to stage the event. Next stop, Bournemouth!

You can also listen here via our embedded media player:

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September 17, 2007 | Glyn Wintle

Microsoft loses appeal

This morning, the European Court of First Instance announced that it would uphold the European Commission's decision that Microsoft has abused its dominant market position.

The Court ruled that Microsoft did this by refusing to supply and authorise the use of interoperability information and by tying together the Windows client PC operating system and Windows Media Player. Although the court essentially upheld the Commission's decision, it did annul certain parts relating to the appointment of a monitoring trustee, which it say have no legal basis in Community law.

ORG welcomes the Court's decision, which is good news for consumers and business alike. As ORG advisory council member Ian Brown points out over at Blogzilla:

"The network effects in many digital markets make competition law more vital than ever if we are to see vibrant free markets. A loss today for the Commission's competition directorate would have been disastrous, forcing them to tread much more carefully in regulating digital monopolists."

Groklaw has good analysis and pointers to reactions from the Free Software Foundation, Samba and others. Text of the full judgement is available here; initial reactions from Microsoft are available here.

ORG's Becky Hogge will be on the BBC1's one o'clock news today discussing the decision with the their technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones.

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September 11, 2007 | Becky Hogge

Supporter meetup in Brighton this weekend

If you're in or around Brighton this weekend, be sure to come and have a drink with ORG. We're really keen to meet ORG supporters in the area and find out about local digital rights concerns. It's not often we get to leave the big smoke on official ORG business (we're roadshowing our e-voting campaign at the Liberal Democrat party conference), so we want to make the most of it.

We're meeting at the Black Lion Pub, on Black Lion St, from 1600 this Sunday 16 September. Who knows, we might even raise a belated glass to Software Freedom Day.

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September 06, 2007 | Becky Hogge

Number 10 responds to iPlayer petition...

...And it's pretty lacklustre. Over 16,000 people signed the petition, demanding that the BBC stop excluding license fee payers who don't have computers running Microsoft software from its new on demand TV service. But Number Ten are apparently satisfied with the BBC Trust's commitment that the iPlayer would be cross-platform "as soon as possible", and the six-month review process the Trust has put in place:

"...the Trust conducted a Public Value Test on the BBC Executive's proposals to launch new on-demand services, including BBC iPlayer. This included a public consultation and a market impact assessment by Ofcom. In the case of the iPlayer, following the consultation, the Trust noted the strong public demand for the service to be available on a variety of operating systems. The BBC Trust made it a condition of approval for the BBC's on-demand services that the iPlayer is available to users of a range of operating systems, and has given a commitment that it will ensure that the BBC meets this demand as soon as possible."

As the Open Source Consortium have argued, what the Trust's provisions fail to acknowledge is the significant competitive advantage this lag time gives the purveyors of the only operating system currently supported by the iPlayer - Microsoft.

The Open Rights Group believes that the BBC should release content that has been bankrolled by license-fee payers in standard formats that are accessible to all.

Read the full petition response here. Read our submission to the BBC Trust's consultation on on-demand services here.

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