call +44 20 7096 1079

Press releases

Press releases


October 05, 2009 | Jim Killock

Royal Mail stop job search

Royal Mail: sacking workers and closing down service helping them find new jobs over IP dispute

A number of non-profit online services face closure today, after Royal Mail sent a cease and desist letter to free post code campaigners.

The services affected include Job Centre Pro Plus, which allows you to find jobs near you. Royal Mail is currently looking to slim its workforce of 121,000 postal workers.

Royal Mail today sent a ‘cease and desist’ letter to Ernest Marples Ltd, the organisation providing a post code API allowing social projects to use post code searches.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group said:

“It’s outrageous that Royal Mail should be sacking workers and at the same time trying to close a service that might help them find work.

“Post codes were created with public money, so they need to be used for the widest public benefit. Ernest Marples have been showing how this can be done. Their ideas need to be legalised for non-profit use, not shut down.

“Intellectual Property rules need to work for society, and not the other way round.

“An amicable solution to allow non-commercial use of post code data would be easy to create, even ignoring the wider innovation benefits of making the data free to use. Clearly, something that allows greater use of post codes is needed right now.

“Better access to information means more social and democratic benefits.

“Services have to pay around £4000 a year to use post code data legally; which raises Royal Mail around £1.3m a year. It is easy to see that large numbers of small business ideas and not for profit services are being blocked by these license fees – it is in effect a tax on innovation.”

Other services facing closure include Planning Alerts, which finds planning applications near your post code, and The Straight Choice, detailing election leaflets and their claims by post code.

The campaigners behind Ernest Marples are programmers Richard Pope and Harry Metcalfe. Harry is also a member of ORG’s board. Harry is taking no part in ORG’s campaigning on this issue.

[Read more]


October 02, 2009 | Jim Killock

Industry expert to Mandelson: legalise it!

TONIGHT Media Futurist Gerd Leonhard, will say that musicians, labels and government need to focus on their wallets rather than technology if they are to save music from the threat of illicit music downloads on the internet.

Speaking ahead of the event, the “Future of Music-Stop disconnection”, Gerd (who advises many of Europe’s top Internet Service Providers) said;

"Music industry lobbyists are saying unpaid downloads are killing our business. In response, the UK government is now considering legislation that would allow people who illicitly download to be disconnected from the Net without a court process.

This leaves many musicians scared and perplexed, some arguing for disconnection, others for their own fans to be restricted to dial up speed internet. Neither will see the artists or labels paid more or the relentless advance of online music sharing halted.”

“Back when Radio was still illegal, the arrival of the PPL and MCPS/PRS collective music licences opened the door for proper payment for music performed in public. We now need the government to legislate for music online, and mandate the creation of a Digital Music License that will put money into the pockets of the creators while giving the consumers what they want, at the same time.”

Notes to editors

  • Gerd Leonhard, Media Futurist and Co-Author of "The Future of Music", Author of "Music 2.0" who advises many of Europe’s top Internet Service Providers and telecoms companies as well as many companies in the content industries (Gerd’s blog is at www.mediafuturist.com)
  • Gerd will be speaking at the Stop Disconnection event - http://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2009/stop-mandelsons-disconnection-plans

[Read more]


September 25, 2009 | Jim Killock

Punishment is not the answer, says Open Rights Group

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, commenting on the artists meeting yesterday, said:

“We welcome that artists have moved away from disconnection, but throttling connections could in practice be just as damaging as disconnection.

“No punishment should take place without a trial. Human rights and natural justice must be respected.

“But we also need to ask why the net doesn’t have dozens of competing new music services, all raking in cash for artists.

“We know people are prepared to pay for music services, but deals are not being made.

“The reason new businesses are not emerging is simple: the major labels are being too cautious and are ‘picking winners’ rather than letting the market rip.

“New businesses are still being blocked, like Virgin’s ‘all-you-can-eat’ service, or Pandora in the UK.

“There is a serious argument that labels are deliberately restraining trade, and acting anti-competitively. The result is that unlicensed services fill the commercial gap.

“The government must intervene and make sure that online licensing is available to all-comers on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

“Otherwise we’ll keep hearing arguments about extreme punishment of alleged file sharers, while nobody earns the money that is undoubtedly out there.”

[Read more]


September 08, 2009 | Jim Killock

Google books: Europe needs to get this right

Speaking at the EU Commission's Google Books hearing today, Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group said:

"We must not see this dispute as simply a process to deliver a compromise between two commercial interests.

"Instead we must ask how best to deliver the wealth of European and world literature – and other cultural works – to citizens

"European literature may shortly be more widely available in the US than in Europe. This would be ironic, regrettable and damaging to European cultures. It is also unnecessary

"We think we must now accept that there is something very wrong with EU copyright law. The incontrovertible evidence is that it needs substantial reform every time an innovative service using copyright works comes along

"Copyright, having acted as an economic incentive to production, is now acting in Europe as a barrier to commercial and academic availability

"We need a limitation to copyright to allow the search and indexing of copyright content.

"European economies need a much more flexible copyright regime, or we stand to lose out in culture, innovation and jobs."

 

Other key points:

  • The public needs Google Books or services like it
  • We need competition between services
  • Copyright licensing needs both licensor information and collective agreements
  • DRM needs regulatio
  • The public domain needs protecting
  • Academia needs the full benefits
  • And our European economies need a much more flexible copyright regime, or we stand to lose out in culture, innovation and jobs.

[Read more]


January 07, 2009 | Michael Holloway

Open Rights Group announces Jim Killock as new Executive Director

7 January 2008

For immediate release

OPEN RIGHTS GROUP ANNOUNCES JIM KILLOCK AS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The Open Rights Group is pleased to announce the appointment of Jim Killock as its new Executive Director. Jim joins the Open Rights Group from his position as External Communications Co-ordinator of the Green Party.

Jim was a leading figure in the campaign to elect the Green Party's first party leader, Caroline Lucas MEP. He coordinated the Green Party's successful “Census Alert” campaign, which prevented the census data of UK citizens from being handled by US arms company Lockheed Martin. He also promoted campaigns on open source and other copyright and patent reform issues.

Jim Killock said, “I’m delighted to be joining ORG at this crucial moment in the struggle for civil rights online.

“As Andy Burnham's shown this Christmas in asking for websites to be given cinema-style ratings, Government Ministers are still ready to put knee-jerk appeals to our fears and doubts ahead of rational policy.

“ORG campaigns to make our digital society work for citizens: working to protect our privacy, and our freedom to express and create. I hope to bring those campaigns to an ever wider audience, because these are fundamental rights that everyone needs defending in this new world.

Jim will replace Becky Hogge, who has served ORG as its Executive Director for the last two years, and Jim and Becky will be working closely together in January to ensure a smooth transition. Becky said, “I’m pleased to be handing over the reins of this inspiring organisation to someone as qualified and enthusiastic as Jim. I wish him the best of luck in what is by anyone’s measure an important year for digital rights.”

Jim Killock is available for interview. Please call 020 7096 1079 in the first instance.

About the Open Rights Group

The Open Rights Group is a digital rights advocacy group based in the UK. It aims to increase awareness of digital rights issues, help foster grassroots activity and preserve civil liberties and consumer rights in the digital age.

[Read more]


May 30, 2008 | Mike Little

Open Rights Group welcomes commission e-voting recommendations

Embargoed until 0100 on 2 August 2007

The Open Rights Group (ORG) today extended a cautious welcome to recommendations made by the Electoral Commission for a pause in electoral pilots and a full public debate on the role technology might play in our electoral system.

ORG is satisfied that an Electoral Commission report, published today, confirms its own experience of the electoral pilots in England on 3 May.

But ORG expressed disappointment that the fundamental challenges in using computers for elections had not been fully recognised by the report.

Jason Kitcat, ORG's e-voting campaign coordinator, said "The Commission's report identifies serious failings in the arrangements of the 2007 pilots. The Government does not seem to be learning the lessons of previous pilots. We believe this technology is not appropriate for public elections, and now is the time for a public debate."

Jason Kitcat is available for interview. Please call +44 (0) 7956 886 508 or email jason at jasonkitcat dot com.

>>Notes to Editors<< The Open Rights Group (ORG) is a digital rights advocacy group based in the UK. It aims to increase awareness of digital rights issues and to preserve civil liberties in the digital age. It opposes the introduction of electronic voting into the UK's electoral system. Thanks to generous funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd, ORG coordinated a 25-strong volunteer team of officially accredited election observers to monitor the implementation of e-voting and e-counting in Bedford, Rushmoor, Sheffield, Shrewsbury, South Bucks, Stratford and Swindon. A full report into their findings, published on 20 June 2007, can be downloaded from http://www.openrightsgroup.org/e-voting-main/.

The Electoral Commission's official evaluation of the 3 May electoral pilots was published today, and is available on their website: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/

[Read more]


May 30, 2008 | Mike Little

Open Rights Group dismayed by Ministry of Justice response on e-voting

For immediate release

13 November 2007

OPEN RIGHTS GROUP DISMAYED BY MINISTRY OF JUSTICE RESPONSE ON E-VOTING

In the May 2007 local elections Open Rights Group observers, accredited by the Electoral Commission, took part in the monitoring of pilot electronic voting and electronic counting schemes. We observed serious failings in the process. Since then, further problems have come to light in other countries leading to many electronic voting solutions being banned or withdrawn. In light of this, yesterday’s Government response to an Electoral Commission report is of great concern.

While the Government acknowledges some of the Electoral Commission recommendations for extending implementation periods for systems, it has ignored the fundamental failings observed in trials so far. It has ignored the analysis by computer security experts that shows the technology for secure computer-mediated voting does not currently exist, let alone a secure system for remote electronic voting. Remote voting systems also threaten the privacy of voting, allowing third parties to coerce and influence other voters, particularly within their household.

The only bright spot is that there is a reliable method that permits the secure operation of electronic vote-counting machines: this requires the performing of hand counts on statistical samples and comparing results with the machine tally to detect errors or fraud. Far less brightly, our experience last May was that e-counting didn’t have these checks, was rather expensive, and even turned out to be considerably slower than a manual count would have been.

But back to yesterday’s Government response. It states that: “All the pilots supported successful elections… all pilots had comprehensive contingency plans to ensure that electors were not disenfranchised and retained their option of a paper ballot.”

This is not the considered view of the observers present at these elections who saw signifcant problems which included disenfranchisement, with voters turned away from the polling station when they found themselves unable to vote by telephone or online (see Open Rights Group, May 2007 Election Report [pdf], page 25).

The Electoral Commission’s report made a great deal of sense, in that it made clear their desire to see “a robust, publicly available strategy that has been subject to extensive consultation” before any further pilots took place.

The Government’s refusal to halt its pilots is therefore of great concern and reflects a disconnect between Government policy, the evidence and current expert thinking in the field. If the Government’s goal of “evidence based policymaking” is to be upheld, then a public debate about the role technology has to play in our electoral process is long overdue. A scheduled public consultation on the introduction of e-voting would be a welcome development.

However, the Government’s response to the Electoral Commission’s report makes it clear that, from their point of view, this question has already been answered: e-voting is the way forward and the imperative now is to “support [the] implementation of a modernisation strategy”, ie to make it work. What public consultation they will engage in will be focused around not if but how e-voting should be introduced. They refuse to accept, despite evidence from the UK and from abroad, that e-voting may not be a viable or desirable area of pursuit.

Elections are one of the most complicated areas it is possible to conceive of to which to apply digital technology. Not only must the system be robust and easy to use, it must ensure voters’ anonymity and privacy, yet be transparent and auditable, and be completely secure against both external tampering and fraud by employees, consultants and the outsourced workers often used to develop components of the system.

A single software or hardware engineer can bias marginal seats a percentage point or two and there is a low probability of a professionally executed fraud being detected. In comparison, while fraud is possible with traditional voting systems any large scale fraud would require huge manpower and be difficult to conceal. We are told that e-voting will increase participation, yet the pilots tell a story of voter turnout increased marginally, if at all. The risks posed to our democracy by the introduction of e-voting outweigh these unproven benefits considerably.

Every voter expects their vote to count, and to count once. Until there is consensus that that expectation can be met, remote electronic voting should be reserved for the purposes for which it is fit - naming cats on Blue Peter and voting on the X factor.

[Read more]


May 30, 2008 | Mike Little

Commission decision shows BBC out of touch on iPlayer

For immediate release

17 September 2007

COMMISSION DECISION SHOWS BBC OUT OF TOUCH ON IPLAYER

The Open Rights Group today welcomed the judgment of the European Court of First Instance to essentially uphold the European Commission's decision that Microsoft abused its dominant market position.

The Open Rights Group (ORG) today welcomed the judgment of the European Court of First Instance to essentially uphold the European Commission's decision that Microsoft abused its dominant market position.

But ORG warned that the decision highlighted their concerns around the BBC's Microsoft-only media player, the iPlayer.

Becky Hogge, Open Rights Group Executive Director, said: "ORG welcomes the Court's decision, which is good news for consumers and business alike. This decision is especially relevant now since, thanks to increasing bandwidth capacity, on-demand media is becoming a reality for more and more people. In order to ensure that consumers are benefiting from innovation and getting the best deal, we need more than one company supplying media player software. In particular, today's decision casts a different light on the decision of the BBC to offer their on-demand viewing exclusively to users of Microsoft software."

Becky Hogge is available for interview. Please call 0207 7096 1079 in the first instance.

+++

>>About the Open Rights Group<<

The Open Rights Group is a digital rights advocacy group based in the UK. It aims to increase awareness of digital rights issues, help foster grassroots activity and preserve civil liberties and consumer rights in the digital age.

[Read more]


April 30, 2007 | Becky Hogge

Open Rights Group: "Politicians should listen to facts, not fairytales"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

30 April 2007

The Open Rights Group today urged MPs to listen to the facts on copyright term extension, and not to the small group of people who seek to distort them by mistaking the copyright regime for a pension scheme.

The digital rights organisation was speaking out against term extension after the release of Copyright Gap, an album of tracks compiled by the copyright collecting society Phonographic Performance Ltd and targeted at MPs. The compilation is an attempt to get MPs to lobby to extend the copyright term for sound recordings in Europe, from 50 years to 95 years.

“It would be a sad day for democracy if the people we elect to run our country put more weight on a nostalgic compilation CD than on an independent economic study commissioned by the Treasury”, said Becky Hogge, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group.

She was referring to a study commissioned by Andrew Gowers and his team during the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property last year. After rigorous economic analysis, the review recommended that the European Commission retain the length of protection on sound recordings and performers’ rights at 50 years. At the time, all of Gowers’ recommendations received the endorsement of the UK government.

Despite the evidence, however, some recording artists and the heirs to their estates persist in framing the debate as a fight to secure “pensions”. “But this is simply wrong”, states Dave Rowntree, drummer with chart-topping band Blur. “Copyright is not a pension scheme. A pension is something you contribute to out of income you earn in your working life”.

Dave Rowntree and Becky Hogge are both available for interview. Please email michael [AT] openrightsgroup.org in the first instance.

About the Open Rights Group The Open Rights Group is a digital rights advocacy group based in the UK. It aims to increase awareness of digital rights issues, to help foster grassroots activity and to preserve and extend civil liberties in the digital age.

For more information about term extension, please see our briefing pack: http://www.releasethemusic.org/press/briefing-pack/

To read the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property visit: http://tinyurl.com/ybyk6h

To read the Review of the Economic Evidence Relating to an Extension of Copyright in Sound Recordings (produced by the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law University of Cambridge) visit: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/537/D3/gowers_cipilreport.pdf

[Read more]


April 23, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Electoral Commission grants official accreditation to Open Rights Group missions

Electoral Commission grants official accreditation to Open Rights Group missions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

23 April 2007 The Electoral Commission have today granted Open Rights Group election monitors official observer status in the local elections of 3 May. The observers will be monitoring electronic voting and electronic counting pilots across England and Scotland.

The implications of the new electronic voting and electronic counting technologies will be closely examined. Their impact on voter privacy, their vulnerability to fraud and general electoral transparency will be under close scrutiny.

Around thirty Open Rights Group observers will be watching the electoral pilot schemes, which are deploying Internet voting, telephone voting and electronic counting technologies. The Open Rights Group observers dominate the group of official observers announced today by the Electoral Commission.

As well as monitoring electoral activity in polling and counting stations, Open Rights Group observers will be allowed to observe server hosting locations for Swindon, Rushmoor, Shrewsbury and Sheffield. The volunteer observers include computer security experts, mathematicians and programmers.

“These last minute moves to give us the opportunity to inspect hosting facilities are very welcome.“ commented Jason Kitcat, e-voting coordinator for the Open Rights Group. “What we will be allowed to observe at these sites remains to be seen.”

All observers will receive operational guidelines based on international best practice, with advice from leading election monitoring organisations. A report based on the observation mission will be published in June and submitted to the Electoral Commission and the Department of Justice (formerly Department for Constitutional Affairs) for inclusion in their evaluations of the electoral pilots.

Jason Kitcat is available for interview. Please call +44 (0) 7956 886 508 or email jason@jasonkitcat.com.

About the Open Rights Group The Open Rights Group is a digital rights advocacy group based in the UK. It aims to increase awareness of digital rights issues, help foster grassroots activity and preserve civil liberties in the digital age.

To find out more about the Open Rights Group’s e-voting campaign visit http://www.openrightsgroup.org/e-voting-main/. This e-voting observation mission has been funded by a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd.

 

[Read more]