November 28, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Open Source Motion Filed in House of Commons

John Pugh MP has tabled an Early Day Motion number 179 in the House of Commons entitled Software in Education. Please write to your MP requesting that they add their name to this motion.

That this House congratulates the Open University and other schools, colleges and universities for utilising free and open source software to deliver cost-effective educational benefit not just for their own institutions but also the wider community; and expresses concern that Becta and the Department for Education and Skills, through the use of outdated purchasing frameworks, are effectively denying schools the option of benefiting from both free and open source and the value and experience small and medium ICT companies could bring to the schools market.

Software in schools - John Pugh - Early Day Motion 179

The Open Schools Alliance have detailed information and advice on what to put in your letter.

UPDATE, 1 Dec 06: The EDM has now been signed by 39 MPs from all the main parties, which is above average for any Early Day Motion. The aim for the next two weeks is to get nearer the 100 signatures mark (of the 380 EDMs tabled by MPs since the Queen's Speech, only 6 have over 100 signatures). If you haven't written to your MP, please do so!

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November 17, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Number 10 Petitions site launches

Back when I was in Brussels for EuroOSCON, the open source conference, Tom Steinberg asked me to think of a petition that I would like to see on a new petition site that mySociety was building for 10 Downing Street. I had a bit of a think, and came up with this one:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to create a new exception to copyright law that gives individuals the right to create a private copy of copyrighted materials for their own personal use, including back-ups, archiving and shifting format.
It was a bit of a rush job, but I think it summed up what I wanted to say, and very much fit in with the thinking I was doing at the time about Release The Music. The petition site launched on 14 November, and to start with my petition was the most popular, then it slipped into second place, and now it's fourth on the site with 1030 signatories (compared to the hunting petition which has 5437). You have until 26 December 2006 to sign up, so please do pop along and add your name to the list. The chaps over at mySociety deserve applause for their hard work - it seems like the first 48 hours after the site went live were a lot of hard work as they ironed out wrinkles in the system. The site has been far more popular than I think anyone anticipated, with nearly 500 petitions suggested within the first few days, although I'll be interested to see how usage levels off when press interest dies down. However, I can see that this will be a tool that ORG will be using regularly as we step up our campaigning. And talking of petitions, if you haven't already signed the petition against term extension on sound recordings, please do. We have 230 names already, but we'd like at least a few thousand more!

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November 17, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

New hi-tech passports cracked

Great piece in The Guardian about how Adam Laurie and No2ID's Phil Booth cracked the new hi-tech passport RIFD chips. If you weren't worried about these new passports before, you should be:

Within minutes of applying the three passports to the reader, the information from all of them has been copied and the holders' images appear on the screen of Laurie's laptop. The passports belong to Booth, and to Laurie's son, Max, and my partner, who have all given their permission. Booth is staggered. He has undercut Laurie by finding an RFID reader for £174, which also works. "This is simply not supposed to happen," Booth says. "This could provide a bonanza for counterfeiters because drawing the information from the chip, complete with the digital signature it contains, could result in a passport being passed off as the real article. You could make a perfect clone of the passport."

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November 15, 2006 | Michael Holloway

Release the Music - audio recording now available

Thanks to everyone who made it along on Monday night. For those who could not attend, and also for reference purposes, you can now download the audio recording - in either MP3 or Ogg Vorbis format - from the link below. Its split into 2 sections, 1 covers the lecture from Jonathan Zittrain, and the other covers the panel discussion.

We hope to make an audio-visual record available within a week or so.

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November 14, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Release The Music: Off to a flying start!

Well, I think that the Release The Music event last night went superbly, getting our campaign off to a flying start. Jonathan Zittrain's keynote was great, giving a clear and concise overview of what copyright is and how we got to where we are with the current copyright term of 50 years on sound recordings. It was good to see Jonathan neatly illustrate the difference between property rights and copyright. The debate was just as impassioned as I had hoped it would be, with some eloquent questions from the floor and a lively response from the speakers.

I'm very much looking forward to getting the audio/video up online so that those who could not attend will be able to find out what happened. In the meantime, there's a blog post from Fernando Barrio with his take on the evening, and an article from PC Pro from our journalist briefing yesterday.

I'd like to thank:

  • All our speakers - Professor Jonathan Zittrain, John Howkins, Dave Rowntree, Caroline Wilson, Richard Mollet and Martin Talbot - for taking time out to participate in our event.
  • John Buckman of Magnatune for providing a venue for our journalists' briefing yesterday.
  • Derek Wyatt MP and his office for helping us organise the MPs briefing on Thursday.
  • The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust for funding the Release The Music campaign with a grant of £5,000.
  • And Michael Holloway, Becky Hogge, Lubna Azhaar, Mike Little, Lemon and all the ORG volunteers for helping with both the event and the site.
What next? Last night's event was the culmination of over a month's work, but it's really just the beginning of our campaign. On the Release The Music site we have a number of things that you can do to support our efforts, including sign our petition (according to Martin Talbot, Music Week got 2000 names and AIM got 4000 names in favour of extension which they presented to the Gowers Review, so we have a way to go to match those), blog about our campaign and the issues involved, or write to your MP.

Whatever you do, don't do nothing. The music industry has a lot of resources, but we have you, and your voice is important.

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November 13, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Release The Music: Today's the day!

Our Release The Music campaign is starting to get underway. Last Thursday, myself, ORG Chair Louise Ferguson, journalist Becky Hogge and lawyer Lubna Azhaar gathered at Portcullis House to give an briefing to MPs, peers and their staff. Due to Parliament being prorogued (temporarily suspended) prior to the Queen's Speech, attendance wasn't quite as good as we would have liked, but nevertheless we had a very useful session. Today we have our lunchtime briefing for journalists, and our public event at Conway Hall at 6pm tonight. I've closed registration, but if you want to come, please just show up as we've a few spare spaces. Although all our work over the last month or two has been focused on today, really, this event is only the start. We'll continue to expand the website, adding more information and content up there. And we're already in talks about another couple of events that we might be able to pull together with some very interesting partners. I'm very excited about tonight, but I'm even more excited that soon I'll be able to start thinking about the next step in our campaign. Meantime, if you agree that the term of copyright protection given to sound recordings should remain at 50 years, please sign our petition.

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November 12, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Trustguide and ID Cards

Trustguide reports on our views, beliefs and needs regarding trust, security and privacy in relation to new technologies. We like it very much - It should be required reading for politicians! Over the last 15 months HP and BT, in conjunction with the DTI, hosted workshops across the UK on a broad range of topics (detailed below). The document is full of participant-responses and is a treasure trove of quotes for journalists.

Topics under consideration:

  • Trust versus risk
  • E-Commerce: Risk and Responsibility
  • Factors that impact on risk taking
  • Mitigated risk
  • ID cards: An aid to security?
  • Use of Biometric data
  • Privacy and health information
  • E-Government and Public Sector IT
  • Awareness and education
  • Use of public access terminals

On the issue of ID Cards, Trustguide concludes we are more concerned with increased vulnerability resulting from a flawed system, than the apparent threat to security which it purports to address. This attitude was revealed despite presenting ID cards as an aid to security and a means of easily identification and authentication.

“I feel more vulnerable having all my data like personal details held in one place electronically than I would having ten separate paper documents held in different places.” “Everything I’ve read on ID cards shows that they are just crossing their fingers; they actually believe that it will be secure and I don’t believe that, not at all.”

Some participants described the cards and database as significantly modifying the relationship between our government and the people, in that all pervasive surveillance is now acceptable. Indeed, some interpet the shift as a sign that government no longer trusts its citizens.

“One of the fundamental problems with ID cards to me is they change the relationship between the citizen and the government of the country.” “If ID cards are brought in it’s now officially legitimate for the government to know who I am and where I am all the time, no matter where that is and it’s officially legitimate. We can no longer complain about CCTV cameras and car registrations and GPS cell phones because we’ve passed legislation saying the government has a right to know who I am and where I am any time they want.”

Very few thought ID cards would aid personal or national security. Concerns were instead directed at Government’s ability to securely hold ID data.

“I don’t think the government are very good at IT and it’s bound to get hacked.” “It won’t make us more secure, that’s rubbish, it’s a hacker’s dream, terrorists will be the first people to hack into it.” “If the government isn’t going to be open about what they’re doing then that means the security must be poor because nobody is checking it, nobody is pointing out the mistakes they’re making, so somebody will find a way in. There may be all these secret plans for what will happen if it goes wrong but surely they should be open about it, if we’re supposed to trust them.”

As NO2ID have stated repeatedly - its not the card that is the threat, but the accompanying database. Trustguide shows the general population now also shares this concern.

“It’s not so much the card that’s the problem as the database, the fact that the government are putting all the data they have about me in one place creates vulnerability. It’s nothing to do with the card itself.”

Approximately half of workshop attendees said they would not voluntarily carry an ID card as described by the current ID Card Bill.

“Why should I allow the State to hold information about me? To what purpose? Who’s in charge of my life, me or the State?”

Concerns were also expressed in terms of function or mission creep. This results from a lack of foresight in how gathered data will be used, particulary how the data might be applied in future. Finally, there was little faith in ID cards achieving Government's stated objectives.

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November 07, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Release The Music: Final speaker confirmed

We have finally confirmed our line-up for the Release The Music event on Monday 13 November at the Conway Hall in Holborn, with the addition of Richard Mollet from the British Phonographic Industry. 6.00pm - Registration 6.30 - 7.30pm - Professor Jonathan Zittrain, Oxford University 7.30 - 8.30pm - Should the term of copright protection on sound recordings be extended? Moderator: John Howkins, Adelphi Charter For: Richard Mollet, Director of Public Affairs, BPI; Martin Talbot, Editor, Music Week Against: Dave Rowntree, Blur; Caroline Wilson, Southampton Law School 8.30 - 10.00pm - A pre-1955 DJ set 10.00pm - Close There are still tickets left, so sign up now if you would like to come. releasethemusic

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