March 23, 2007 | Becky Hogge

ORG Election Watch 2007: Registration Pack now online

Our guide to registering to become part of ORG's volunteer Election Watch 2007 team is now online. If you've already pledged to devote your day to democracy on May 3, by becoming an accredited election observer in one of the areas where e-voting and e-counting systems are being piloted, then Jason Kitcat will be contacting you soon. If you haven't, but you'd like to, please pledge now.

We have already succeeded in fielding 3 election monitoring teams. But we're still looking for people in to help us in the following areas:

  • Sheffield - only one more person needed for Pledge success!
  • South Bucks (in Pledgebank use “Denham” - the one near Uxbridge, Harefield, Fulmer)
  • Bedford
  • Breckland (in Pledgebank use “East Dereham”)
  • Dover
  • Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Warwick (in Pledgebank use the one near Leek Wootton, Old Milverton, Leamington)

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March 21, 2007 | Michael Holloway

ORG Raffle!

Update #3: Raffle is now closed! See you tonight!

Update #2: Less than 24 hours now until we close the raffle (tomorrow, noon), so get buying your tickets!

Update: more prize donations - signed copies of Lawrence Lessig's Code v2 and Andrew Gowers' Review of IP, and £150 worth of O'Reilly vouchers!

Oh you lucky, lucky people... here comes the inaugural ORG raffle! Tickets are £2.50 each and make excellent Easter gifts.

Gaiman and keyboard

Prizes include Neil Gaiman's (signed) keyboard, a signed copy of Bruce Schneier's Beyond Fear, a set of a dozen Beatpick compilations and a couple of extra special Doctorow donations: a signed author's galley of his next novel, Little Brother (forthcoming in 2008), and the opportunity to be written into it!

We'll make the draw as part of our spectacular 'Support ORG! (and Party)' 11 April event. All advance purchases (we'll close the paypal interface an hour or two before the party) will be assigned a paper ticket, then added together with tickets sold on the night for the grand draw, to be selected by our yet-to-be-disclosed special guest.

And if you haven't registered to attend Support ORG! (and Party) yet, get to it!

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March 20, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Patent Office want evidence to justify new copyright exceptions for artists

The Patent Office needs to hear from artists and creators. Please let us help you get in touch.

The Patent Office is charged with implementing the exciting recommendations suggested in the recent Gowers Review of IP. But they are yet to be convinced of the crucial need for some of these recommendations, mainly because they're finding it hard to get in touch with the relevant practioners. They are looking for concrete examples of creative practices inhibited by the law, to back up proposed exceptions for the purposes of "creative, transformative or derivative works" and "caricature, parody or pastiche".

Would you, your colleagues, students or collaborators benefit from these exceptions? Are you working or have you worked on a project outlawed by the overly-protectionst copyright regime, which would have benefited from these kinds of exceptions? If so, please get in touch - info[at] - and share your experience.

Rights holders were of course quick to lobby against these suggested exceptions. In their opinion the dismal and labour-intensive "must-ask-permission!" culture of copyright-licensing works just fine as it is. They don't see the creative and social opportunities in remixing and poking fun, only the economic-downsides in losing control of their 'IP assets'.

But if you are a practicing artist with relevant experiences to share, please get in touch today so we can show the importance of copyright exceptions to Patent Office.

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March 14, 2007 | Suw Charman Anderson

links for 2007-03-14

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March 09, 2007 | Suw Charman Anderson

links for 2007-03-09

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March 07, 2007 | Becky Hogge

Election Watch 2007 - Devote your day to democracy!

map showing where ORG volunteers have agreed to observe electionsDoing anything exciting on election day? ORG is looking for volunteers to "devote their day to democracy" and become ORG's Electoral Commission accredited election observers for the e-voting pilots on Thursday 3 May.

We'll provide you with full instructions on the kind of things that will be expected of you on the day. We'll also supply a factsheet of what to look out for in each of the different pilots. We'll expect you to be travelling around the pilot area during the day, and to turnaround a quick report for us afterwards.

If you live in or around the eleven pilot areas (or are willing to travel there) and you'd like to help out, please let us know. Sign up to our pledge on Pledgebank - we're using a beta feature that lets you input which of the pilot areas you're volunteering for. The image on the right shows where volunteers have already signed up.

Please take a look down the list of pilot areas to see if there's one near you, or one you'd be willing to travel to. The information in brackets will help you sign up to the right area using the Pledgebank system.

The five e-voting pilot areas are:

  • Rushmoor (use "Aldershot" in Pledgebank)
  • Sheffield
  • Shrewsbury & Atcham (use "Shrewsbury" in Pledgebank)
  • South Bucks (use "Denham" - the one near Uxbridge, Harefield, Fulmer)
  • Swindon (the one near Wroughton, Draycot Foliat, Chisledon)

The six e-counting pilot areas are:

  • Bedford
  • Breckland (use "East Dereham")
  • Dover
  • South Bucks (use "Denham" - the one near Uxbridge, Harefield, Fulmer)
  • Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Warwick (the one near Leek Wootton, Old Milverton, Leamington)

To read more about e-voting in the UK and across the world, download our briefing pack. If you do volunteer, you'll be playing a vital role. We need bodies on the ground to inform us about irregularities, machine (and human!) error and even fraudulent activities relating to the trialling of electronic voting mechanisms.

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March 06, 2007 | Becky Hogge

System Failure: Private Eye report into NHS IT

The current issue of Private Eye has an eight-page special report into the NHS Programme for IT and Connecting for Health. The report, by Richard Brooks, gives a history of the project since its ill-fated conception in 2002, and highlights the work of Computer Weekly and e-Health Insider in bringing the less functional aspects of the emerging system to the attention of the public.

What struck me most is the ticker tape running along the bottom of the report, which gives examples of what £12.4bn - the amount the National Audit Office estimated the system would cost over ten years last year - could buy for the NHS. According to Private Eye, £12.4bn would pay for:

  • 26,000 doctors for ten years, or
  • 65,000 nurses for ten years, or
  • The NHS's record 2005/6 deficit - 23 times over, or
  • Every hospital built since 1997 - three times over, or
  • 200 years of currently "too expensive" Alzheimer's drugs, or
  • 500,000 full courses of herceptin treatment for cancer patients.

Unfortunately, the report is not available online - although it will likely end up in the Private Eye shop at some point. It should be available from UK newsagents until 13 March.

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February 28, 2007 | Jason Kitcat

Committee on Standards of Public Life call for halt of May e-voting pilots

Yesterday, Sir Alistair Graham, chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, called for the 2007 electoral pilots in the UK to be halted, in a speech to the Association of Electoral Administrators conference. Sir Alistair's committee has recently published a report on the Electoral Commission calling for major reform of both the commission and our electoral system, particularly with regard to fraud.

Sir Alistair is proving to be a strong, independent new voice in the debate concerning our electoral system. His speech today made every point we would like to make and then some. Even though electoral fraud undermines voter confidence, is the DCA's and the Electoral Commission's focus on increasing participation causing them to turn a blind eye to fraud? Given existing problems with fraud and unsatisfactory systems for combating fraud, is it appropriate to rush ahead with pilot schemes?

Sir Alistair also argued that the government had been entirely misleading in their use of statistics from Northern Ireland, which has a much stricter electoral regime than the rest of the UK. Sir Alistair argued that in the long term new measures in Northern Ireland had not been damaging to participation as the DCA had argued, and that we should be replicating those measures across the rest of the UK.

The debate continued on BBC Radio 4's The World at One where Sir Alistair argued that the DCA's priorities were wrong, saying that "we should be concentrating on safeguarding the integrity of the current voting system rather than experimenting in remote systems which are bound to carry a high risk".

In an absurd argument, David Monks, Chief Executive and returning officer for Huntingdonshire, stated that if we don't pilot new voting technologies the fraudsters will have won by preventing changes which benefit society and meet our new modern lifestyles.

Finally, DCA minister Bridget Prentice MP replied to Sir Alistair by saying that he was "just plain wrong". She didn't accept any of his arguments whatsoever. She also ignored the implications of this week's visit by a Council of Europe delegation assessing whether the UK's electoral system needs to be monitored for fraud, along with many former Soviet republics.

We briefly met the Council of Europe delegation on Monday, giving them copies of the ORG e-voting briefing pack. They seemed to be deeply concerned by the level of worry about fraud in the UK. Indeed, my analysis of 2006 opinion research for the Electoral Commission shows that the public clearly want secret and secure votes ahead of anything else like convenience. Furthermore, political issues were shown to be the main barriers to turnout and not ease of voting.

As Sir Alistair puts it, "deep-seated voter disengagement will not be solved by tinkering with the mechanics of the electoral system".

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: E-voting's Unsolvable Problem-->
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