June 19, 2007 | Becky Hogge

ORG launch report into 3 May e-elections tomorrow night

Since our 3 May mission to observe e-voting and e-counting in the English and Scottish elections, the ORG e-voting team have been hard at work. The individual reports from our 25-strong volunteer team, as well as materials collected by Michael and Jason using Freedom of Information requests, have been turned into a sixty-page report which is on its way back from the printers now.

The report will be officially launched tomorrow night at the Royal Academy of Engineering. The event will include a presentation from Harri Hursti, computer security expert and star of Hacking Democracy, who has revealed a number of flaws in American voting systems. Spaces for ORG supporters are strictly limited, as we're trying to attract as many MPs and civil servants as we can, but if you'd like to attend, please get in touch with Michael today (michael[at]openrightsgroup[dot]org).

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June 14, 2007 | Glyn Wintle

Help us protect podcasting, again

Less than one year ago WIPO promised to re-draft its Broadcasting treaty. Member States, mindful of the harm it could cause to citizen-media, refused to grant new copyright-like rights to broadcasters and cablecasters. The new draft was issued in May, but - contrary to WIPO's promise - it offers similar exclusive control to big media but offers no protection for internet users.

Please help the cause by signing the petition - it takes virtually no time at all. Beyond that, please write to your MPs. This tactic was really effective in last year's campaign, especially when you ask your MP to pass on your concerns to the relevant minister. If you feel this issue and have time and energies to give, drop us a line and we'll connect you with national and international groups campaigning around this issue.

Dean, who leads the UK Podcasters association says

“This inappropriate WIPO legislation is dangerous, and must not be allowed to pass into national law as it stands, or we risk seeing a vibrant industry saddled with restrictions and our individual rights handed wholesale to corporate broadcasters."

This campaign is led by the EFF's excellent Gwen Heinze. She says

“The exceptions ... are far worse than this time last year ... there's no mention of webcasting or netcasting, but Broadcasters and cablecasters will get the right to control Internet retransmission of anything broadcast or cablecast. Therefore, podcasters won't receive any rights under the treaty (only traditional broadcasters and cablecasters will), but podcasters are likely to be detrimentally affected by the treaty for a number of reasons. Put simply, from podcasters' point of view, we are in the same place we were last year, but there's an even stronger push to try to get the treaty through. If the current treaty draft is accepted by WIPO Member Countries next week, it moves to the next treaty stage - an intergovernmental Diplomatic Conference now scheduled in November.”

If you have any queries, drop them in the comments below or to the usual email address.

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June 07, 2007 | Becky Hogge

Independent review calls for better access to public sector information

This morning sees the release of The Power of Information, an independent review, commissioned by Hilary Armstrong MP at the Cabinet Office, into "state- and citizen-generated information". The report, authored by Tom Steinberg (MySociety) and Ed Mayo (National Consumer Council), calls for the government to thoroughly examine the economic case for keeping some public sector information locked into trading funds (like the Ordnance Survey).

The review recognises that the money generated from trading funds selling on public sector information is tiny compared to the wider value of public sector information to the economy as a whole. Moreover, the reivew suggests that citizens, communities and NGOs would benefit if all public sector information was made available in open formats under licenses that allow innovative re-purpose and reuse.

The Government will respond to the review "in due course". Let's hope they see the wisdom in its call for a beginning of evidence-based policy in this area.

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June 01, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporter Updates - April and May 2007

Links to our Supporter Updates from the last two months. If you are an ORG supporter but do not receive these updates by email and wish to, please email me.

Supporters Update - April 2007 Supporters Update - May 2007

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May 22, 2007 | Louisiana

ORG is looking for new Board members

Update: deadline for applications is Friday June 22nd

It’s hard to believe, but the Open Rights Group is nearly two years old! Over this period, ORG’s Board have steered the organisation on a steady course. But there’s still a long way to go yet, and we’re looking to refresh our ranks with new folks interested in dedicating their time to building a sustainable digital rights organisation that can continue to make a real difference in the way the media and policy-makers approach networked, digital technologies.

So we’re looking for applications to become a non-executive member of ORG’s board. This is a position that requires serious dedication – at least two days out of every month plus the commitment to attend monthly evening meetings, and quarterly Advisory Council meetings. It is also a formal position – collectively, the Board ensures that ORG remains solvent and financially strong and takes responsibility for ensuring that ORG activities comply with all legal requirements. The position is unpaid, although out-of-pocket expenses will be refunded.

But it’s also a position that promises significant rewards:

  • Playing a major part in the success of an innovative young campaigning organisation that is already making a significant impact on the UK's politics and media.
  • Being at the cutting edge of politics and technology.
  • Working with a strong community of like-minded staff, advisers and volunteers committed to strengthening human rights and freedoms in the digital era.

If you’re interested in applying, take a look at our detailed job description.

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May 21, 2007 | Michael Holloway

MPs vote themselves above Freedom of Information

The House of Commons voted last Friday for legislation "designed to protect MPs, not their constituents" by exempting themselves from the Freedom of Information Act. The story is well covered by blogs and traditional media. There is some hope at least the Lords will prevent this Private Members Bill reaching the statute books.

Here's a list of who voted which way. If your MP voted 'aye', you should drop them a line to ask how this measure increases accountability and transparency in government. If your MP was absent from the vote, then write and tell them why this legislation only increases our distrust of the political establishment so must be opposed.

And if one attempt to limit use of the FOI regulations wasn't insult enough, the Ministry for Justice are also trying to save politician's blushes under the guise of saving a few quid. Please help us submit to the ongoing consultation by contributing to our consultation wiki page.

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May 16, 2007 | Becky Hogge

House of Commons culture committee rules in favour of copyright term extension on sound recordings

The House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport has today released its Fifth Report - an investigation into New Media.

The report endorses performing artists' call for an extension to the term of copyright in sound recordings (although, as Copyweb points out, this slightly confuses rights in performances with rights in sound recordings).

The Committee's logic looks simple:

"Gowers' analysis was thorough and in economic terms may be correct. It gives the impression, however, of having been conducted entirely on economic grounds. We strongly believe that copyright represents a moral right of a creator to choose to retain ownership and control of their own intellectual property. We have not heard a convincing reason why a composer and his or her heirs should benefit from a term of copyright which extends for lifetime and beyond, but a performer should not."

Gowers did couch his report in economic terms. His idea of balance matched the needs of creators against those of consumers and innovators.

But he didn't just do this because he was commissioned by the Treasury. He was reflecting the current position of UK law. Current UK law regards copyright as an economic incentive to create, or, as Gowers puts it "a purely statutory right created for the utilitarian purpose of encouraging literary efforts".

It seems the House of Commons Select Committee is not arguing for an extension to term, it is arguing for a fundamental change to the law, a law for which there are plenty of "convincing reasons" which can all be couched in moral terms.

But it may just as likely be the case that the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport simply doesn't know its law properly.

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May 14, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Copyright extension: Seems our MPs haven't been doing their homework

Update 2: Nick Pollard says Stephen Williams MP has responded to his letter by agreeing to take his name off the EDM. Well done, Nick (and Mr Williams MP). Anyone else had a response? Let us know so we can strike their names off the list below.

Update: 7 more MPs have signed the EDM this week. If you are a constituent of one of these members, please write to explain why we should all oppose this copyright extension.

  • Alan Simpson - Nottingham South - Labour
  • Janet Dean - Burton - Labour
  • Jeffrey Donaldson - Lagan Valley - Democratic Unionist Party
  • Frank Doran - Aberdeen North - Labour
  • Pete Wishart - Perth and Perthshire - SNP
  • Alasdair McDonnell - Belfast South - Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Colin Burgon - Elmet - Labour Party

Here we go again.

Top-level reviews of intellectual property regulation reject proposals to extend the length of copyright protection for producers and performers. An independent economic study grounds the Gowers Review's recommendation that “The European Commission should retain the length of protection on sound recordings and performers’ rights at 50 years.” This recommendation, endorsed by the British government in December 2006, is affirmed by a report authored for the European Commission that rejects in even stronger terms proposals for extension.

Yet certain politicians appear to be neglecting their IP studies. Seventy MPs have now signed an Early Day Motion calling for extension: perhaps they're simply studying from the same textbooks as Mick, Katie and Cliff? Please write to tell your MP that term extension will neither benefit starving musicians nor guarantee profits for the recording industry.

We must remind politicians to debate this issue on the basis of evidence – which points firmly against extension – rather than nostalgia. It is particularly important to write if you are a constituent of one of these 70 MPs:

David Amess Mark Durkan David Lepper
David Anderson Bill Etherington Elfyn Llwyd
Janet Anderson Mark Field Peter Luff
Joe Benton Michael Jabez Foster Judy Mallaber
David S Borrow Hywel Francis David Marshall
Peter Bottomley Mike Gapes John McDonnell
Colin Breed Ian Gibson Jim McGovern
Vincent Cable Nigel Griffiths Ann McKechin
Martin Caton John Grogan Rosemary McKenna
David Chaytor Mike Hancock Alan Meale
Michael Clapham Dai Havard Doug Naysmith
Tom Clarke John Hemming Edward O'Hara
David Clelland Doug Henderson Mike Penning
Harry Cohen Jimmy Hood John Robertson
Derek Conway Kelvin Hopkins Bob Russell
Frank Cook George Howarth Dennis Skinner
Jeremy Corbyn Brian Iddon Gavin Strang
Ann Cryer Glenda Jackson David Taylor
Ian Davidson Brian Jenkins Desmond Turner
Philip Davies Lynne Jones Rudi Vis
Jim Dobbin Barbara Keeley Betty Williams
Frank Dobson Alan Keen Stephen Williams
David Drew Greg [R] Knight Jenny Willott

If you need fuel for your letters, watch the videos (or listen to the audio) from our Release the Music debate (thanks, Tim!). The first part is a fantastic speech by Jonathan Zittrain, which explains this issue and other aspects of copyright reform in clear terms. The second is a panel debate, featuring representatives from the music industry as well as an academic and recording artist.

We’ll be updating our Release the Music briefing pack before taking the campaign to Europe later this year. If any readers are excited to get involved, please drop me a line so we can coordinate our efforts.

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: Electronic Voting - Response to Scottish Government's consultation on Electoral Reform-->
  • June 28: ORG Edinburgh: Social with Chief Operating Officer Martha Dark
  • ORG Aberdeen: Cryptonoise May 2018
  • ORG Glasgow: A discussion of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • ORG Aberdeen: March Cryptonoise event