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April 27, 2007 | Becky Hogge

ORG ElectionWatch 2007 ready to go

ORG election observers meet Hacking Democracy directorsMost of the thirty ORG election observers who have volunteered to devote a day to democracy on 3 May have now received their official accreditation from the Electoral Commission. ORG's monitoring team dominates the group of offical observers accredited by the commission last week. We'll be paying special attention to the running of electronic voting and electronic counting pilots in Bedford, Rushmoor, Sheffield, Shrewsbury and Atcham, South Bucks, Stratford and Swindon. Observers will also be monitoring Scottish elections where e-counting is set to be deployed widely for the first time.

Today, Michael is mailing out hard copies of our election observer handbook, as well as limited edition ORG "election observer" T Shirts, which will make us easily recognisable to officials and candidates on the day. Last night, a few of the observers met up at the ICA in London to watch a screenig of Hacking Democracy, and chat with directors Russell Michaels and Simon Ardizzone.

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April 26, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Are you receiving ORG's supporter updates?

We email out a Supporters Update on the last day of each month. It contains a mixture of news, press and events items as well as suggestions for ways to volunteer and help ORG's work. Past missives are archived at the links below.

If you're an ORG supporter but you're not receiving our monthly update by email (and if you'd like to!) then please ping michael[at]openrightsgroup.org with your contact details to receive future messages.

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April 20, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Home Office's 'Data Retention' consultation

The Home Office is holding a consultation into the initial transposition of the EC 'Data Retention' Directive on the retention of communications data'. They have published a set of draft regulations, and a shiny PDF detailing the process by which they arrived at these regulations, as well as 6 questions into the application of these regulations. This document is summarised for your use on our wiki.

Will you be affected by these regulations? Do you have concerns regarding the associated costs to businesses, or implications for privacy? If so, please record your perspective on our wiki in order that we can express your concerns. Alternatively, email your testimony to michael[at]openrightsgroup.org. We will gather evidence for the next month or so, before producing a document for submission ahead of the June 11th deadline.

NB These regulations will not be applied to internet access, internet telephony and internet e-mails, as the Directive will not be applied to these services until 2009, following further consultation.

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April 18, 2007 | Becky Hogge

Take action: European Parliament votes on IPRED2 next week

It’s time to get in touch with your MEP again.

IPRED2 – the EU’s second intellectual property enforcement directive – is going to the vote at the EU Parliament next week. If it passes in its current form, "aiding, abetting, or inciting" copyright infringement on a "commercial scale" in the EU will become a crime. What’s more, it will be the first time the EU will force countries to impose minimal criminal sanctions – this is normally left up to the discretion of member states.

EFF Europe have set up a new website – copycrime.eu – to help stop the directive coming into law in its current form. According to them:

“IPRED2's new crime of "aiding, abetting and inciting" infringement takes aim at innovators, including open source coders, media-sharing sites like YouTube, and ISPs that refuse to block P2P services.

With the new directive, music labels and Hollywood studios will push for the criminal prosecution of these innovators in Europe, saying their products "incite" piracy - with EU taxpayers covering the costs.

Under IPRED2, these same entertainment companies can work with transnational "joint investigation teams" to advise the authorities on how to investigate and prosecute their rivals!”

The directive is poorly drafted, and doesn’t define “commercial scale” well enough to ensure that ordinary citizens exercising their rights under copyright and trademark law aren’t at risk of penalties and fines. EFF, FFII, BEUC and EBLIDA have jointly drafted a set of amendments, which have been tabled by the European Green Party. The amendments would:

  • Limit the scope of IPRED2 to true criminal enterprises, involving copyright piracy and trademark violations done on a commercial scale, with malice and the intention of earning a profit from the enterprise
  • Avoid creating an unprecedented scope of secondary liability for Internet intermediaries, ICTs, software vendors and a range of legitimate business activity, by removing the words "aiding or abetting and inciting" from Article 3
  • Provide legal certainty by adopting precise and appropriate definitions of "on a commercial scale" and "intentional infringement" in Article 2 as commercial activity done with the intent to earn a profit directly attributable to the infringing activity

The coalition need you to get in touch with your MEP and ask him or her to support these tabled amendments before the vote on 24 April. All MEPs have been sent a copy of the proposed amendments, so they will know what you’re talking about when you ask them to “support the librarians', consumers' and innovators' coalition amendments to IPRED2”.

For more details on the amendments, advice and suggestions on what to say to your MEP, and to sign EFF Europe’s petition against IPRED2, visit the Copycrime action page.

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April 12, 2007 | Becky Hogge

SO!(aP) a success - raffle winners announced

Dave and Becky, awed by the list of rallfe ticket buyersLast night's inaugural Support ORG! (and Party) event was a huge success - thanks to everyone who came. We signed up over a dozen new supporters, with dozens more walking away with supporter forms tucked inside their free culture goodie bags. Danny O'Brien's speech was characteristically rousing, and Dave Rowntree did a great job as our raffle puller. A pool of photos is growing on Flickr, as revellers recover from their hangovers and get uploading their photos (if you're uploading photos of the night to Flickr, please tag them "openrightsgroup").

Thanks to all the volunteers who made the night go so smoothly - Glyn, Sheila, Chris, Janita, Felix - and to Tim, Andrew and Johnny V for sounds and visuals. Thanks to Ian and Lee at Bar Kick, to No2ID, Genewatch, Magnatune, Canonical, O'Reilly and Beatpick for their contributions to the goodie bags, and to EFF and Mind Candy for some last minute schwag. Thanks to all our celeb raffle donors, and big, big thanks to Michael for pulling the whole thing together so artfully.

And now for the moment you've all been waiting for... the ORG raffle winners:

  • A signed copy of Lawrence Lessig's Code 2.0 goes to Kimberley Gahramt
  • A signed copy of Bruce Schneier's Beyond Fear goes to Karen Molden
  • A signed copy of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property goes to Grant Slater
  • Neil Gaiman's signed keyboard goes to Ben Goldacre
  • £90 of O'Reilly vouchers goes to Laurie Rich
  • £60 of O'Reilly vouchers goes to Zach Robinson
  • The 12 CD Beatpick compilation goes to Lawrence Lessig (you should have heard the cheers that one got on the night)
  • And the chance to be written into Cory Doctorow's next book and receive a signed author's galley goes to Graeme Sutherland

Congratulations to all our winners. Michael will be getting in touch with those of you who weren't at the party to collect your prize soon to arrange delivery. Commiserations to those who were less successful, but take heart in the knowledge that the money you've spent on raffle tickets is going to a very good cause.

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April 04, 2007 | Becky Hogge

ElectionWatch 2007 - ORG goes north of the border

Breaking news from the Scottish Electoral Commission - ORG can observe the election in Scotland! This is fantastic news, as not only is Scotland electing its Parliament this 3 May, the entire vote will be e-counted.

But we haven't got much time - if you live in Scotland and would like to observe the Scottish elections as part of ORG's ElectionWatch 2007, please sign the pledge now, indicating where in Scotland you can observe. And please download one of our registration packs - ideally you'll need to post us your completed registration form by the end of the day today to ensure we can accredit you in time.

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March 30, 2007 | Becky Hogge

Less than two weeks 'til SO!(aP)

It's less than two weeks until Support ORG! (and Party) - the ORG supporter event on the evening of 11 April at Bar Kick, London. To recap - SO!(aP) is a chance for ORG supporters to meet one another, and we're asking each ORG supporter to bring at least one friend who they think would like to support ORG if they knew more about our work. The event will feature "public domain" music, remixed visuals and free culture goodie bags - truly an evening not to be missed.

And I'm pleased to announce that our very special guest speaker will be ORG's pledge founder - Danny O'Brien - who is flying in to the UK from his EFF outpost in San Francisco. What's more, we've got even more treats to add to the ORG raffle - a signed copy of Code 2.0 from Lawrence Lessig, £150 in O'Reilly book vouchers and... wait for it... a signed copy of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property! But remember, you don't get a chance to win anything, if you don't buy a ticket (£2.50 each - available now via Paypal or on the night for cold, hard cash).

We want as many people as possible to come and join us for this event, so please spread the word. See you there!

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March 26, 2007 | Glyn Wintle

Dilemmas of Privacy and Surveillance

The Royal Academy of Engineering has just released a report entitled Dilemmas of Privacy and Surveillance Challenges of Technological Change. The report focuses on areas where the developments in IT have had a particularly significant impact on personal privacy. It gives examples of some of the harm that can be done by exposing people to these risks, for example while talking about RFID chips in British passports:

With sensitive personal details readable over a distance, it could even become possible, with appropriate antennas and amplification, to construct a bomb that would only detonate in the presence of a particular nationality or even a particular individual.

The report also covers proposed government databases holding sensitive personal information. It urges the government to prepare for failures in these systems.

There are a number of incidents in which a government or series of governments have suffered loss of trust due to poor role performance, or perceived poor performance. Crucially to the interests of this report, a number of these relate to the introduction of new technologies. For example, the implementation of a new computer system in the Child Support Agency (CSA) was considered a disaster, with many vulnerable people failing to receive child support payments due to its inadequate functioning. The failures associated with the CSA have been brought up in criticisms of plans for the NHS project 'Connecting for Health' which involves bringing modern computing systems to the NHS. They have also been raised in connection with the ID cards scheme and the associated National Identity Register (NIR).

Both past problems and recent difficulties mean that government is vulnerable when it comes to trust in their ability to implement a large IT project, or any other complex business change project. Of course, government is not alone in experiencing difficulties in implementing complex projects with a large IT component, but it is particularly vulnerable since its projects use public money and involve critical services such as the NHS.

The Academy calls for the government to take action to prepare for such failures, making full use of engineering expertise in managing the risks posed by surveillance and data management technologies. It also calls for stricter guidelines for companies who hold personal data, requiring companies to store data securely, to notify customers if their data are lost or stolen, and to tell them what the data are being used for. It recommends that engineering solutions should be devised which protect the privacy and security of data.

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