June 23, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Open Tech 2008 preview

Open Tech 2008 is an informal, low cost one-day conference on technology, society and low-carbon living, featuring Open Source ways of working and technologies that anyone can have a go at.

We don't usually flag events on this blog, instead we use Upcoming to publish events. Open Tech is exceptional because Open Rights Group was conceived at this conference in 2005. Our sessions at Open Tech 2008 will review the giant steps we've made and look forward to even greater things.

The programme is a three-streamed feast of 60 talks from the likes of mySociety, No2ID, OpenStreetMap, the Power of Information task force, ourselves and many others. Our sessions kick-start the day, beginning at 10.30am, when we'll share the stage with No2ID to present our current programme of works. The second slot at 11.30am will features Danny O'Brien telling the story of ORG and asking for your suggestions to help chart our future course. Recordings will be made available.

Open Tech logo

Besides these seminars, we're rounding up a posse of staff, directors, advisors and volunteers for a few drinks after the formal sessions close at 7.15pm. We're inviting everyone who cares about their digital rights to help us celebrate ORG and spot future issues. Here's all the details you need to be a part of Open Tech 2008:

When: Saturday 5 July 2008, 10.30am-7.15pm. Registration now open (Doors open at 10am, bar closes at 11pm) Where: ULU, Malet street, London WC1E 7HY (Zone 1, CC zone). Link to map. Cost: £5 on the door. The organisers expect to sell all tickets so pre-registry is strongly advised.

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Term Extension "will damage Commission's reputation", top legal advisers tell Barroso

Today, the leading European centres for intellectual property research have released a joint letter to EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso, enclosing an impact assessment detailing the far-reaching and negative effects of the proposal to extend the term of copyright in sound recordings. With the confusion and disillusionment of Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty still ringing in the Commission's ears, the letter states:

"This Copyright Extension Directive, proposed by Commissioner McCreevy, is likely to damage seriously the reputation of the Commission. It is a spectacular kowtow to one single special interest group: the multinational recording industry (Universal, Sony/BMG, Warner and EMI) hiding behind the rhetoric of "aging performing artists".

"The Commission is required to conduct an impact study for each directive it proposes. We, the leading European centres for intellectual property policy research, have collectively reviewed the empirical evidence. Our findings are unanimous. The proposed Copyright Extension Directive will damage European creative endeavour and innovation beyond repair."

Read the letter and impact assessment in full. Further details are available from the Centre for Intellectual Property and Management.

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June 06, 2008 | Michael Holloway

The Future of the Internet in Focus

Will consumer pressure for a safer net mean the end of open platforms and rapid innovation? And should the geeks who "get" the net care if the rest of the world prefer TiVos and iPhones?

On Wednesday of this week we co-hosted an event at the British Computer Society to discuss the problems raised by Jonathan Zittrain's new book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. Professor Zittrain was joined by technology journalist Bill Thompson and our Executive Director, Becky Hogge, to discuss the threat that insecurity and "tethered appliances" pose to the generative Internet. We were also fortunate enough to have an expert and lively audience.

The recording (thanks to Felix) of this 90 minute event shows there is both plenty of middle ground and a broad range of views held within our community. We'd love to see your comments on the merits of Jonathan's arguments, particularly his point that online communities should develop self-regulatory mechanisms rather than rely on Government measures to ensure the net flourishes.

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June 06, 2008 | Daniel

OfCom Chief Exec on next generation broadband... and network neutrality?

Broadband Internet access is great, isn't it? Sure, it's greater in some areas than others, but in general cable and ADSL have made possible the age of streaming content we now inhabit. And yet... it could always be faster. Especially as low-res sites like Youtube give way to hi-res apps like iPlayer, some providers have forecast that online traffic will meet its physical capacity within the next few years.

Government has taken notice of the problem, but not perhaps in a way that favours users. On Tuesday morning, Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards appeared on Radio 4's Today in part to address the introduction of next-generation broadband in Britain. To gain the added infrastructure necessary for this switch-over, Mr. Richards said:

"Are we doing everything that we can to set out a clear regulatory framework, to ensure that there are returns where companies take risks? Yes, I think we are doing that as well."
Will this have implications for network neutrality? He cited Virgin Media as the vanguard of fibre investors — that company's views on net neutrality are as unpalatable as they are unprintable on our front page.

Ofcom occupies a unique position in this field, because it has the power to guide the debate on what the next paradigm in Internet access will look like. Clearly, 2008 will be an important moment in this debate, and ORG is doing what we can to remind Ofcom that it is just as much its duty to "further the interests of citizens" as to ensure Virgin a healthy return. You can see our current work on the issue on our wiki, and we invite you to contribute to the project.

A transcript of the relevant portion of the Mr. Richards' interview also appears on the wiki. The interview came ahead of Ofcom's release of a new voluntary code of conduct for ISPs advertising broadband speeds.

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June 03, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Floreat ORG: new staff members

The ORG office has expanded with two new additions to our staff. Gavin Hill joins as part-time Policy Officer and Dan Ray will be interning with us for the next two months. Welcome along, guys. New team members significantly increase our capacity to campaign for digital rights both by releasing existing resources and bringing new expertise and energy to our work.

Our new role of Policy Officer was created thanks to a generous grant from the Open Society Institute. The role's focus is to coordinate opposition to copyright term extension and the "three strikes" agenda at the European level. Gavin is a seasoned digital rights campaigner who developed and managed the UK arm of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure's strategic resistance to European software patents. He has also worked for the National Union of Students and the Open Schools Alliance. You can reach Gavin on gavin at openrightsgroup dot org.

And our new intern, Dan Ray, is on summer vacation from his postgraduate work at Harvard Law School. He majored for his undergraduate degree in Political Science and spent a summer studying British history at Oxford University. Dan's duties will be varied and his main output will be managing the collaborative drafting of a briefing pack on network neutrality. If you've got any pointers for that project, then please leave your remarks and links on Dan's working page on orgwiki. You can reach Dan on daniel at openrightsgroup dot org.

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May 30, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporter update - May 2008

Another busy month here at ORG HQ, not least with the knitting frenzy and ElectionWatch '08. Click the link below for your monthly digest of Open Rights' activities. And if you have any advice on format or content, would be interested to hear it in the comments.

Supporter update - May 2008

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May 30, 2008 | Becky Hogge

ORG has new threads

You might notice a few changes to the website today. We've been busy shuffling things around, trying to help it serve the thousands of different people (35,000 this month) who visit the site. This includes adding a dedicated press page linked to from the main menu, and developing a set of pages which attempt to explain to newcomers why particular issues get us going. We've also added pages for people who want to get more involved with ORG and it's day-to-day activities, and updated the sidebar with links to our Flickr photo pool, our Upcoming feed and the ORG shop.

Thanks to Ben for the inspiration, to Mike, Sheila, Richard, Ryan, Lemon, Adam and Chris for making it happen, thanks to Michael for nagging everyone until it did, and thanks to Harry, Suw and Rachel for early feedback. We'll probably have missed something, so if you spot any bugs or broken links, please drop a comment below or email info [AT] openrightsgroup [DOT] org to let us know.

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May 19, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Changes to Open Rights Group Board

The ORG board, which oversees ORG's staff and operations, is changing. Currently, the board consists of Louise Ferguson, William Heath, James Cronin, Suw Charman, Danny O'Brien, Rufus Pollock, Ben Laurie, Vijay Sodiwala, David Harris and Dan McQuillan.

Louise Ferguson steps down as chair. Louise has chaired the ORG Board since inception, providing exemplary service during the demanding period of setting up a sustainable new supporter-driven organisation. She continues to serve as a Board member.

Suw Charman, one of ORG's founders and its first Executive Director, is leaving to concentrate on other projects. Suw was instrumental during the early months, working with the other founders to turn the ORG pledge into a reality. Her contributions both as Executive Director and, later, as a Board member led the organisation to many notable successes. We wish her the best of luck in her new endeavours (not least her new blog,

ORG will announce a new chair to serve for a one-year term from September 2008. ORG intends to appoint its next new Board members in autumn 2008. These posts will be openly advertised shortly. From June to September 2008 William Heath takes over as acting chair.

As Danny O'Brien, ORG's co-founder says, "The Open Rights Group was defined, and continues to be defined, by Suw and Louise's amazing and tireless contributions over the last three years. We're incredibly indebted to them both."

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