Blog


September 16, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Join ORG today for a signed copy of JZ's new title

Continuing our summer blockbuster of a supporter drive, we are delighted to offer five signed copies of Jonathan Zittrain's The Future of the Internet, and How to Stop It. As you can see from the widget-ometer, so far we've reached 947 monthly fivers - well on the way to our target of 1,500 by the year's end. We attribute the recent boost to our 24 October event with Neil Gaiman - for which there are still a few tickets left - and the release of the Who's Watching Who video.

Professor Zittrain is one of the wise owls on our Advisory Council and his latest book "explains the engine that has catapulted the Internet from backwater to ubiquity—and reveals that it is sputtering precisely because of its runaway success." The next five people who sign up to support our work and include "JZ floats my boat" in the "How did you hear about" field will receive, along with the usual benefits and warm glow, a signed copy of this epoch-shattering work.

[Read more] (1 comments)


September 15, 2008 | Becky Hogge

European Data Protection Supervisor comments on the Telecoms package

Back in July, we asked you to write to your MEP about worrying last minute amendments to the EU Telecoms Package. Now, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), an independent supervisory authority devoted to protecting personal data and privacy, has commented in depth on the amendments in a 13-page report.

In reviewing the amendments, the EDPS underlines the concerns raised earlier in the Summer that they could bring in a "3 strikes" style copyright enforcement regime through the backdoor. He states that:

"...it seems fair to say that the amendments do not set up unequivocally a "3 strikes approach" system. They do not spell out thoroughly the details of such a system. However, in the EDPS' view, these amendments provide for a "slippery slope", and can be interpreted as erecting the foundations for such a system and even favouring its emergence, to be further developed either at national or EU levels"

Thanks to the letters sent by the ORG community MEPs were alerted to the ambiguities in the proposed amendments and are now seeking to clarify what effects the law will have. The EDPS recommends that

"...in light of the points above, this should be clarified in a recital, which could read as follows: "Cooperation procedures created pursuant to this Directive should not allow for systematic and proactive surveillance of Internet usage""

Voting on the amendments will take place next week. You can download the EDPS report here [pdf]. For more commentary, try:

[Read more] (2 comments)


September 09, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Sign up this instant to get Remix, Lessig's next book

Larry is the Daddy If you've still not signed up to make regular donations to Open Rights Group then this may be the prod you've needed. Lawrence Lessig, pre-eminent cyberlaw scholar and the grand wizard of Creative Commons, releases his new book this Autumn and we have five signed copies to give away. The book is called Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy and will be his last on intellectual property in the digital age. It pursues three key themes:

"(1) that this war on our kids has got to stop, (2) that we need to celebrate (and support) the rebirth of a remix culture, and (3) that a new form of business (what I call the "hybrid") will flourish as we better enable this remix creativity."

The next five people who sign up to support our work and include "Larry's the Daddy" in the 'how did you hear about' field will receive, along with our growing list of supporter benefits, a signed copy of Remix.

[Read more] (2 comments)


September 08, 2008 | Louisiana

ORG is looking for new Board members

Update: The deadline for applications has now been extended to Tuesday 28 October.


The Open Rights Group's Board of Directors is responsible for overseeing all aspects of its work, from payroll to policy decisions. We are very pleased to have in place a committed and expert group of volunteers to undertake these works. And with the organisation approaching its third birthday we are looking for new additions to join the team.

The first requirement, of course, is for applicants willing to dedicate 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. 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. This year, we are particularly interested in applicants with fundraising and chairing experience.

The role promises significant rewards to the right applicant:

  • Playing a major part in the success of an innovative young campaigning organisation that has made and will continue to make 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 civil liberties in the digital era.

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

Deadline for applications is Tuesday 30 September Tuesday 28 October 2008

[Read more]


September 05, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Performers likely to get as little as 50¢ a year from increased term of copyright

Last month the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) asked for comments on the European Commission's proposal to almost double the term of copyright protection on sound recordings. The Commission's proposal [pdf] is flimsy, misleading, and peppered with contradictions. Our submission [pdf] asks the UKIPO to reject it in the strongest terms.

Our submission shows that for the vast majority of performers the projected extra sales income resulting from term extension is likely to be meagre: from as little as 50¢ each year in the first ten years, to as "much" as €26.79 each year. That's because most of the gains (89.5%) will go to the top 20% of recording artists. Meanwhile the major labels will be dividing up millions in extra handouts every year.

What's more, performing artists will make no extra revenue from radio airplay and other income streams arising from so-called "secondary remuneration rights", and may even make less. The Commission assumes that fees paid by users of recordings, e.g. broadcasters, will remain constant. That means the amount of earnings available to performers will not be any bigger - it will just be sliced more thinly and distributed longer to more rightsholders. Performers will not earn any more over their life time, and are likely to earn less, as money will be transferred from the living to the estates of the dead.

The proposal is set to cost hundreds of millions to consumers, with repercussions to the public interest, follow-on innovators and cultural diversity. It serves as a windfall for an industry the Commission would have us believe is immune from simple economic logic. No wonder Europe's leading copyright thinker - and adviser to the European Commission - has accused the Commission of wilfully misleading the European Parliament, and the citizens of the European Union.

Thanks to everyone who helped us respond - you can download our final submission here. Thanks to yonmacklein for the image.

[Read more] (12 comments)


September 04, 2008 | Michael Holloway

How to win friends and influence people (to support ORG)

Our fundraising campaign, ORG-GRO, continues apace. And although initial results look good - we've gone from 750 to over 900 fivers in two months - we've still got a long way to go before we reach our target of 1,500 monthly fivers by the end of the year. "We" means you, too - ORG needs the help of the whole community to get new people engaged with digital rights issues.

So it's time to start badgering your friends and colleagues. We've put together this short film to show you how it's done (it's acted by members of the ORG volunteer community - can you tell?). We hope it will inspire you to start conversations about digital rights around the water cooler, in the pub and anywhere else you think potential ORG supporters might be lurking. The video also explains some of the core issues ORG campaigns on, so why not send a link to it to your friends?


Who's Watching Who? from Dean Whitbread on Vimeo.

Anyone who refers three new supporters will win themselves a t-shirt and at the end of the year, the top referrer wins an Asus Eee PC. Find out more about how to claim your booty here.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped out with the video: Felix, Harry, Patricia, Glyn, Mark, Tom, another Mark, Rani and, most especially, Dean.

[Read more] (1 comments)


August 29, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Shedding light on the Intercept Modernisation Programme

Over the course of the Summer, several news sources have reported a radical new surveillance plan afoot at the Home Office, dubbed the "Intercept Modernisation Programme". Starting with The Times, who broke the story in May, reports have claimed that as part of this programme a new national database would be created containing the electronic communications data of the entire population.

Despite extensive press coverage since then, the Home Office have remained tight-lipped. The Communications Data Bill, which is on the Draft Legislative Programme for the next Parliamentary session, will, they say, have more details of the proposed scheme. According to a written answer submitted to the Earl of Northesk:

"the objective of the Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP) is to maintain the UK's lawful intercept and communications data capabilities in the changing communications environment. It is a cross-government programme, led by the Home Office, to ensure that our capability to lawfully intercept and exploit data when fighting crime and terrorism is not lost. It was established in response to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister's national security remit in 2006."

And it looks like the Home Office have already been recruiting civil servants to help communicate with "stakeholders" about the scheme. This (Goggle cached) job description reveals that:

"The IMP has been set up to deliver a programme which will maintain the UK's capability to obtain and exploit Lawful Intercept (LI) product and Communications Data (CD) during and beyond the change over from circuit-switched to IP based networks. The programme is a major, multi year undertaking incorporating the efforts of a broad community of stakeholders. It will also be utilising a range of new technologies and techniques."

But will the IMP include a centralised database? Certainly the Information Commissioner felt moved enough by the speculation to warn [pdf] that:

"If the intention is to bring all mobile and internet records together under one system, this would give us serious concerns and may well be a step too far. We are not aware of any justification for the state to hold every UK citizen’s phone and internet records. We have real doubts that such a measure can be justified, or is proportionate or desirable."

ORG decided to test our much-fought for Freedom of Information laws to see if they could help us find out more. You can read the FOI request we've sent to the Home Office here (with thanks to mySociety and their excellent new FOI tool WhatDoTheyKnow?). We'll keep you posted when we receive a response. In the meantime, our campaign resources wiki page will stay updated with any emerging news of the scheme.

[Read more] (4 comments)


August 29, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporter update - August 2008

Neil GaimanHere's the August update for all you supporters and soon-to-be-supporting readers. Click through for details of our 24 October event with Neil Gaiman and a whole heap more.

Supporter update - August 2008

Thanks to Jutta for the image.

[Read more] (1 comments)