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September 14, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Digital Rights Ireland challenge data retention laws

Digital Rights Ireland has started a High Court action against the Irish Government challenging new European and Irish laws requiring the retention of telecoms and internet traffic data retention.

ORG campaigned strongly against the Data Retention Directive, particularly when the music industry said they wanted a piece of the action, but once the Directive was passed, there's been little to do here in the UK but sit and wait for government implementation. Although Germany's Bundestag have voiced serious doubts that the Directive could be implemented "in a constitutional manner", it has already been established that their constitution is subordinate to European Law. It's therefore unlikely we'll see a challenge from that direction.

This means that DRI's action is profoundly important for everyone who values their privacy, because if they win, it will mean an end to data retention in the UK and Europe.

You can read more on the DRI blog, and press release.

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September 09, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

The reason we do this

If anyone wondered why we - as individuals or together - fight the copyfight and why we support Creative Commons, and whether it really makes any difference: this is the reason why and the difference it makes. It really is great to hear that making things available under a CC licence can genuinely improve the quality of someone's life.

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September 08, 2006 | Michael Holloway

Spam all you want, but don't crack DRM!

As revealed in detail by Bruce Schneier, Microsoft this week rushed a patch out the door, well ahead of their usual once-a-month Patch Tuesday.

Included in this 'security patch' is code designed to break a utility called FaireUse4WM a program designed to remove the DRM from Windows Media Files.

More disturbing of course is that it's being called a security patch in the first place. While technically it is making *someone* more secure, but that someone is not you. Of course, you still need to spare the bandwidth, system downtime for restart, and far more importantly, the inherent risk of system-damaging errors that come from installing a patch to give those other people their security.

Given that system-threatening security holes are regularly made to wait for a fix until said Patch Tuesday by Microsoft, but this minuscule threat to their DRM is addressed almost immediately, it's not hard to see what priorities are at work here. Breaking DRM will bring immediate action, but turning your computer into a spam-spewing component of a bot net? Well, those kind of holes in your system will just have to wait.

(My sentiments exactly, but not my words, they came courtesy of Ryan Alexander)

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August 29, 2006 | Michael Holloway

Come support the Open Rights Group in Scotland!

As part of the Gikii workshop leading up to the VI Computer Law World Conference, the Open Rights Group will be sponsoring an open reception for everyone to get to know ORG. This is a HAPPY HOUR with free wine and snacks!

We are especially looking for interested lawyers and academics for the new ORG advisory body, ORG-Law. But don't be afraid if you simply just want to come by and check us out. Come out, meet other people interested in bringing fairness and balance back into the debate over intellectual property law and internet law!

When: 5 September from 18:00 to 19:00 Where: Lorimer Room, Old College, Edinburgh

While you're in Edinburgh, don't forget, the Computer Law World Conference is open to the public! Programme includes Creative Commons general counsel Mia Garlick, famed cyberlaw professor Michael Geist, and tons of great lectures on cybercrime, privacy, and file sharing!

Register here for the conference.

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August 25, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Denial-of-Service attacks

A Denial of Service (DoS) attack involves deliberately flooding a server such as a web or email server with information until that server collapses, causing difficulties to users, system admins and others dependent on the service. Techies, users, lawyers and even politicians all agree this activity should be illegal, but the law has for some time now been in need of clarification. For example, a judge last November cleared a teenager of charges arising from his sending 5,000,000 emails to a former employer.

In light of this absurd result amendments were introduced to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 by the Police and Justice Bill 2006 with the intention of clarifying the illegality of DoS attacks, these amendments are expected to reach the Statute book in the Autumn. Yet even more absurdly, this amendment was originally drafted so as to possibly outlaw linking to a site from a very popular site (such as Slashdot or BoingBoing), thereby generating a huge spike in traffic. Thankfully Lord Northesk removed this possibility by introducing a test of recklessness during the Lords Committee stage. Lord Northesk really does deserve a hearty pat on the back for all his hard work over many years trying to improve UK computing law.

And just to tidy things up, the disgruntled teen-employee's case was recently considered at the Court of Appeal, where it was decided that the lower court was wrong to throw out the case. The defendant subsequently pleaded guilty to breaking the Computer Misuse Act and was sentenced at Wimbledon Youth Court to a two month curfew. Somewhat ironically, he must also wear an electronic tag.

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August 23, 2006 | Michael Holloway

27th August - Copyfighters Drunken Brunch & Talking Shop with Dr Ian Brown

The next Copyfighters’ Drunken Brunch and Talking Shop will be held on Sunday 27 July, and it will be chaired by Dr Ian Brown. We will meet upstairs at the Mason’s Arms, 51 Upper Berkeley Street, Marble Arch at 12noon for brunch. The Mason’s Arms is on the corner of Berkeley Street and Seymour Place.

Once we are suitably lubricated (at around 2pm) we will, en mass, go to Speaker’s Corner and orate on the subject of copyright, DRM, the weather — whatever. Speaking isn’t mandatory, but it IS highly encouraged.

Photos from past events are on Flickr.

Please let me know if you are coming by signing up on the ORG wiki page so that I can get an idea for how much food to order.

Nearest underground station is Marble Arch. Turn right at the top of the escalators, then right as you leave the station, then right down Great Cumberland Place, then left down Upper Berkeley Street. The Mason’s Arms is on the corner of Seymour Place and Upper Berkeley Street.

Any problems, please call Mike on 020 7096 1079 (which redirects to my mobile).

Hope to see you there!

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August 18, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

'Blaggers' on Radio 5

Our very own Dr Ian Brown is going to be on BBC Radio 5Live, this Sunday 20 August. The Julian Worricker show will be running a feature on "blagging" personal information. Details are:

10:00 Worricker on Sunday Spend Sunday mornings with Julian Worricker. Three hours of award-winning investigation, breaking news, politics, and entertainment. Julian and guests will be reviewing all the top stories from the Sunday papers and looking forward to the week ahead. Have your say too - text 85058 [network rates apply]. Including the Five Live Report: Blaggers Just how safe are our personal details and files? A rape victim tells the Five Live Report of how her attacker - a convicted child rapist - hired a private detective to track her down. The private eye illegally obtained the victim's bank details, telephone and medical records after her evidence led to the rapist's conviction and a nine year sentence. Reporter Matthew Chapman examines dozens of cases where so called 'blaggers' put individuals at risk by illegally obtaining personal information for a living; and asks why are they receiving such small fines in the courts despite making in some cases over a million pounds a year.
Ian will be on air some time around or after 11am.

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August 17, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Belated Happy SysAdmin Day

OK, I know I'm several weeks late on this, but Electech and UKUUG's tribute to SysAdmins everywhere is well worth watching (and I'm not just saying that because it features our very own James Cronin, and the ORG logo). So thanks to all the SysAdmins, designers and other volunteers who keep ORG running!

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