call +44 20 7096 1079

Press releases

Press releases

April 19, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Open Rights Group will monitor UK elections with thirty observers


Friday 20th April

Taking advantage of new legislation, the Open Rights Group will field a team of thirty observers to monitor the conduct of this May’s electoral pilots. 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. The Open Rights Group is taking advantage of the Election Administration Act 2006, which allows for independent observers accredited by the Electoral Commission to monitor UK elections. Open Rights Group observers will be watching the English electoral pilot schemes, which are deploying Internet voting, telephone voting and electronic counting technologies. Observation missions will travel to 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.

The observersvolunteered using the innovative e-democracy website,, created by pioneering charity MySociety. Volunteers include computer security experts, usability specialists, mathematicians and programmers. 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.

“We hope that our dedicated, independent team of volunteer observers will be seen as a welcome contribution to the electoral process, “ commented Jason Kitcat, e- voting coordinator for the Open Rights Group. “Our observation mission aims to provide an independent viewpoint on how these new technologies are used in our election systems.”

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

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 This e-voting observation mission has been funded by a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd.

[Read more]

April 02, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Open Rights Group welcomes EMI move to ditch locked-up music


2 April 2007


The Open Rights Group, a grassroots membership organisation that campaigns for Internet users' rights, has today applauded EMI’s move to sell unencumbered digital music compatible with all MP3 players.

Consumer groups and regulators across Europe have criticised "Digital Rights Management" (DRM) software that stops consumers playing music purchased online on many mobile phones, non-Windows computers and MP3 players. Some DRM software has caused serious security problems when installed on CD buyers' computers. Last month, EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection Meglena Kuneva asked: "Do you find it reasonable that a CD will play in all CD players, but an iTunes song will only play on an iPod? It doesn't [sound reasonable] to me. Something must change."

Open Rights Group board member Ian Brown said: "It's great news that EMI has finally listened to their customers and technology experts and dropped DRM. Music fans can now listen to top-quality audio on whatever MP3 player and computer they like - without risking security breaches and player lock-in from flawed 'copy protection' tools."

Members of the Open Rights Group are available for interview. In the first instance, please contact Michael Holloway on +44 (0)20 7096 1079 or email michael[at] 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.

[Read more]

December 14, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Announcement: Becky Hogge to be new ORG Executive Director


14 December 2006


The Open Rights Group is delighted to announce that Becky Hogge is going to be taking over from Suw Charman as ORG's new full-time Executive Director on 15 January 2007. ORG had some great applicants for the post, but Becky shone as someone who will be able to bring ORG many new successes over the coming months and years.

Becky joins ORG from Open Democracy, where she worked first as Managing Editor, then as Technology Director. She's been writing campaigning journalism on digital rights for several years, and she has a lot of experience in bootstrapping young organisations, particularly in the not-for-profit world. ORG has already done some work with Becky, who drafted the Release The Music briefing pack.

Suw will be moving to a position on the ORG Board, from where she will focus on blogging and policy writing, and will help Becky steer ORG through what are some really complicated waters.

Charman said, "The last year and a half has been an astonishing success - I don't think any of us thought that ORG would have as much influence now as it has shown in the past weeks with the Gowers Review, and I am very proud of what we have achieved.

"I couldn't possibly have done it without help from ORG's Board and Advisory Council, and of course, Michael Holloway our Operations Manager, and the various volunteers who help keep ORG going. You all know who you are, and you know how grateful I am for your help. I hope you will show Becky the same kindness and support that you have given me.

"It's not without some sadness that I prepare to leave the position of Executive Director. ORG feels like my baby. But I know that Becky is going to do an excellent job, and I'm genuinely excited to be working with her. I know she's going to share my vision for ORG's future, and that she'll bring her own ideas and opinions to the table to make sure that we keep up our pioneering work. After all, we've already scored an unprecedented victory over term extension, and I'm sure that there'll be a lot more work to do to secure that.

"Becky is going to be our first full-time member of staff, so it's more important than ever that we all continue our donations - a fiver a month is all we ask. And Becky will ensure that we continue to get a great return on our donation!"

Notes for Editors 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 to preserve and extend civil liberties in the digital age.

For more information, contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7096 1079

[Read more]

December 06, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Open Rights Group welcomes Gowers Review


6 December 2006


* Evidence-based approach essential * Keeping the copyright term for sound recordings at 50 years is the right decision; Government must hold firm in face of music industry lobbying to ignore the report * Moves to tackle commercial-scale counterfeiting are welcome; but we must distinguish between counterfeiting and individual copying * Calls for "transformative works" exemption will be valuable if law drafted well * Delighted to see libraries supported in their essential cultural preservation role

The Open Rights Group is delighted to see Andrew Gowers taking an evidence-based approach to Review of Intellectual Property, and welcomes many of the recommendations he makes.

ORG Executive Director Suw Charman said: "This review is the most important critique of intellectual property in the UK of recent years, and we are delighted to see that the majority of its recommendations are sensible and constructive. We are concerned, however, that the report is recommending stronger enforcement of intellectual property rights without distinguishing between large-scale commercial and small-scale non-commercial infringement."

Professor Jonathan Zittrain, Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University and member of the Open Rights Group Advisory Council, added: "The Review is thoughtful and persuasive, particularly on term extension. It places in one document a review of the arguments for extension -- and disposes of each. One hopes the Government is reading carefully."

"On increased penalties for copyright infringement, these must be placed against other important law enforcement priorities -- particularly those that deal with physical harm rather than economic harm. The day cannot come soon enough when publishers finish tweaking their business models so that everyone, including artists, benefits from abundance rather than from a scarcity which is, by everyone's agreement, artificial."

The Open Rights Group urges the Government to take good the Gowers review, but care must be taken in how its recommendations are followed:

* Policy changes must be based on evidence. * Independent research must be commissioned for specialist areas where there is currently little evidence * User rights and exemptions must be specifically granted, and not just convenient loopholes or an agreement not to prosecute. * There must be public consultation on each specific reform to ensure that the public voice is heard.

Term Extension We are delighted that the Gowers Review has seen through music industry hyperbole and is recommending that the term of copyright protection for sound recordings remain at 50 years. There is no doubt that this is the right decision - it is supported by all the evidence. But the Government must stand firm in the face of renewed industry attempts to marginalise the Gowers Review.

Matt Black, DJ and one half of Coldcut, said: "The only people to benefit from term extension would be the giant traditional media groups - artists would actually benefit more from letting music enter the public domain. Extending copyright term for past works amounts to revising the deals made with artists without their consent. Who would sign a deal for a term of '50 years or however long we want to make it by lobbying to get the law changed'?

"The conclusion of the Gowers review that copyright term should not be extended is the correct one; we should not follow the lead of the US who have submitted to corporate demands by Big Media. Here we can recognise that music is a key part of our culture, (and, indeed, a key export), that recycling is a natural part of musical creativity and that not extending the existing copyright term will promote the creation of UK music."

Exemptions Calls for additional exemptions to copyright law for "creative, transformative* or derivative works" and for "caricature, parody or pastiche" will be important to both artists and the public alike. However, we must be sure that the transformative works exemption is not restrictively drawn, for instance, ruling out transformations which "offend artistic integrity", as this would mean that the law would be subject to the vagaries of personal opinion as to what is 'offensive'.

It would be far better for the law to give general guidelines, and not to try to create an exhaustive list of acceptable uses, which would go rapidly out of date.

Also important is an exception which would legalise the transfer music from CDs to an MP3 player.

Dave Rowntree from Blur said: "I think the idea of a private copying exception is long overdue and, together with a proposal for orphaned works and the transformative works and parody exceptions, it will make for a more robust copyright law which encourages creativity rather than stifles it."

We are pleased to hear that libraries will be supported in their preservation work and will be allowed to copy and reformat copyrighted material, including film and sound recordings. This is essential to the health of our cultural heritage and we are delighted that the Chancellor has recognised its importance.

Counterfeiting, piracy and file sharing We welcome the Chancellor's commitment to tackling counterfeiting and piracy. However, we are concerned that the report seems to make no distinction between large-scale commercial counterfeiting, and small-scale non-commercial acts carried out by individuals. Too often these vastly different acts are conflated by the music industry, and the drafters of any new intellectual property law must make the difference clear to both the courts and the rightsholders.

We are concerned that without this clarification, this report will give a green light to the record industry to continue to pursue frivolous court cases. If the police become involved in infringement investigations, as recommended by the Gowers Review, there is a risk that their resources would be diverted from tackling serious crime by an over-enthusiastic music industry keen to prosecute grannies and children for file sharing.

We would urge the Chancellor and to commission an independent study into file sharing, as it is clear that much more research is needed in order to determine how file sharing should be treated legally. Impartial evidence must form the foundation for policy in this area, rather than biased and unreliable information provided by interested parties.

Notes for Editors * A 'transformative work' uses an existing work to create something new which possesses its own merits, such as a parody, a critique or review, or using thumbnails images to aid search.

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 to preserve and extend civil liberties in the digital age.

For more information, contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7096 1079

[Read more]

December 05, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Rigorous analysis of Gowers Review essential


5 December 2006


The Open Rights Group eagerly anticipates tomorrow's publication of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property. We especially welcome the evidence-based approach that Andrew Gowers is reported to have taken, because we believe that the evidence is entirely on our side.

We have campaigned against the extension of copyright term on sound recordings, and over 700 people have signed our petition in just a couple of weeks ( We also held a very successful debate on 13 November ( to address the issues around term extension. It would seem that our campaigning, along side the British Library, the IPPR and others, has been successful, if rumours that Gowers will not be recommending an extension of term are true.

A second petition on the official No. 10 petition site calling for a right to private copy has also been very successful - it has so far been signed by over 2800 people (, putting it in the top 10 most popular petitions on the site.

But no matter how encouraging indications have been as to the direction the Gowers Review will take, it is important that we are rigorous in our analysis of the report and the press releases that will be distributed by parties with a vested interest in specific policy changes. To that end, we ask ten key questions that Gowers must have answered for his report to be valuable in forming future policy for the creative industries:

1. If we are granted the "right to private copy", which would legalise the act of copying a CD to an iPod, will the exception cover copying DVDs to iPods too? And will it allow individuals to circumvent copy protection?

2. Will companies using Technical Protection Measures (TPM) be required to ensure that their software respects all legal access rights? For example, the right to make preservation copies, the right of individuals to loan and resell, and the right to freely access and reuse material that is in the public domain?

3. Does the Gowers Review differentiate between professional counterfeiting, i.e. mass producing counterfeit DVDs and CDs to sell, and individual fans making copies for back-up or to format-shift? Will any changes to the law suggested by Gowers make this difference too?

4. Will the Gowers Review make recommendations regarding how to facilitate the use of orphaned works (where the rights holder is not known or cannot be contacted)? If not, will the Review recommend further examination of this problem?

5. Will musicians and authors be given the right to claim back their IPR when their works go out of print?

6. Will the British Library, and other archives, be allowed to make copies of sound recordings for preservation?

7. Will the law be changed to ensure that companies cannot use contract law to undermine the rights granted under copyright law?

8. Why now? In the US, copyright term extension typically comes up for discussion whenever Mickey Mouse comes close to entering the public domain. Are The Beatles the UK's Mickey Mouse?

9. The Gowers Review deliberately excludes Crown Copyright, Parliamentary Copyright, and the regulations governing Public Sector Information. When might these be reviewed in the interests of widening public access to the data we have paid for as tax payers?

10. Will the Gowers Review challenge any of the current European legislation or international treaties, many of which force a 'maximalist' stance on member nations and treaty signatories?

For the full text of the Open Rights Group's submission to the Gowers Review, please see:

Notes for Editors 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 to preserve and extend civil liberties in the digital age.

For more information, contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7096 1079

[Read more]

November 27, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Gowers leak - copyright term not extended

For Immediate Release

A leak from the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property has indicated that the government will reject calls from the music industry to lengthen the term of copyright protection given to sound recordings. If this is true, we are encouraged and delighted by the news.

As we have argued - alongside the British Library, the IPPR and prominent musicians such as Dave Rowntree from Blur - it is essential for the vitality of the music industry that they honour the copyright bargain they have struck so that both old and new music can flourish.

Such a decision would be a victory for musicians and business alike, making it possible for them to re-use, remix, and re-release classic old recordings. The public will benefit too, from increased choice in the re-release market and from a rich creative environment within which contemporary artists can reinvigorate old recordings. And for libraries it is essential, allowing them to preserve our cultural heritage and provide public access to it without fear of lawsuits or crippling copyright clearance fees.

However, until Andrew Gowers' final report is published, we urge people to continue writing to their MPs asking them to oppose copyright extension, and to sign the Open Rights Group petition at

For more information about term extension, please see our briefing pack:

Notes for Editors 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 to preserve and extend civil liberties in the digital age.

For more information, contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7096 1079

[Read more]

September 14, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Digital Rights Ireland challenges EU mass surveillance law


Contact Details: TJ McIntyre Phone: +353 87 2075919 Email: contact at Web:

This press release is being distributed by the Open Rights Group on behalf of Digital Rights Ireland and can also be read online:

Digital Rights Ireland challenges EU mass surveillance law Irish civil rights group Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) has started a High Court action against the Irish Government challenging new European and Irish laws requiring mass surveillance. DRI Chairman TJ McIntyre said:

"These laws require telephone companies and internet service providers to spy on all customers, logging their movements, their telephone calls, their emails, and their internet access, and to store that information for up to three years. This information can then be accessed without any court order or other adequate safeguard. We believe that this is a breach of fundamental rights. We have written to the Government raising our concerns but, as they have failed to take any action, we are now forced to start legal proceedings."

"Accordingly, we have now launched a legal challenge to the Irish government's power to pass these laws. We say that it is contrary to the Irish Constitution as well as Irish and European Data Protection laws."

"We also challenge the claim that the European Commission and Parliament had the power to enact the Data Retention Directive. We say that this kind of mass surveillance is a breach of Human Rights, as recognised in the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights which all EU member states have endorsed."

"If we are successful, the effect will be to undermine Data Retention laws in all EU states, not just Ireland, and to overturn the Data Retention Directive. A ruling from the European Court of Justice that Data Retention is contrary to Human Rights will be binding on all member states, their courts and the EU institutions."

Attack on Private Life He continued:

"These mass surveillance laws are a direct, deliberate attack on our right to have a private life, without undue interference by the government. That right is underpinned in the laws of European countries and is also explicitly stated in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Article specifies that public authorities may only interfere with this right in narrowly defined circumstances."

"The information will be collected and stored on everyone, regardless of whether you are a criminal, a policeman, a journalis, a judge, or an ordinary citizen. Once collected, this information is wide open to misappropriation and misuse. No evidence has been produced to suggest that data retention laws will do anything to stop terrorism or organized crime."

"We accept, of course, that law-enforcement agencies should have access to some call data. But access must be proportionate. In particular, there should be clear evidence of a need to move beyond the six months of storage which is already used for billing purposes. Neither the European Commission nor the European police forces have made any case as to why they might require years of data to be retained."

"Data Retention, as legislated for in Ireland and mandated by the Data Retention Directive is unjustified mass surveillance. The government is deliberately recording information about innocent citizens without cause."

Legal background The action challenges the law on data retention contained in the Irish Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act, 2005 and the European Data Retention Directive passed in 2006. The action has been commenced in the High Court by McGarr solicitors on behalf of DRI and names as defendants the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda Commissioner, Ireland and the Attorney General. DRI will ask the Irish courts to refer the Directive to the European Court of Justice for a decision on whether it is valid.

International Support Digital Rights Ireland is the only group bringing a challenge to these laws, but it is supported by many international privacy and civil rights groups.

Suw Charman of the Open Rights Group said:

"Today's annoucement by Digital Rights Ireland is profoundly important for everyone who values their privacy in the UK and the rest of Europe. European politicians ignored strong criticisms from the Union's own privacy watchdogs, MEPs and public interest groups when pushing the Directive through Parliament and it is crucial that it be challenged.

"The Open Rights Group has consistantly argued that Data Retention as implemented by European governments and the EU is unworkable, unnecessary and unlawfully intrusive. This case may decide whether privacy of law abiding citizens from state surveillence will remain possible in the UK and the rest of Europe. We fully support Digital Rights Ireland and look forward to working with them on this issue."

Danny O'Brien of the leading group Electronic Frontier Foundation said:

"The EU Data Retention Directive is an excessive invasion of the privacy and security of all Europeans. Mandatory recording and retention of European citizens' telephone calls by telephone companies and their online behaviour by Internet Service Providers creates a precedent for mass surveillance and is likely to chill freedom of expression on political and social issues that are at the very core of a well-functioning democracy. Digital Rights Ireland's legal challenge to the directive will help protect not only the fundamental rights of citizens of Europe, but also those of other countries tempted along the same path."

Organisations supporting the action include

Open Rights Group, UK Electronic Frontier Foundation, USA Privacy International, UK Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, Europe Luridicum Remedium, Czech Republic Digital Rights, Denmark Liga voor de Mensenrechten (League for Human Rights), Belgium Electronic Frontier Finland, Finland VIBE!AT (Austrian Association for Internet Users), Austria IRIS (Imaginons un Réseau Internet Solidaire), France ALCEI (Electronic Frontiers Italy), Italy Internet Society, Bulgaria Quintessenz, Austria

Contact details: Phone: TJ McIntyre on +353 87 2075919 Email: contact at Web:

Background for Editors:

The initial letter from DRI threatening legal action is outlined here:

Media coverage of that letter is summarised here:

The Irish Times dealt with the letter in an editorial here:

Digital Rights Ireland is a non-profit group devoted to protecting civil and human rights in a digital age.

TJ McIntyre is a barrister and Lecturer in Law in University College Dublin.

END #####

[Read more]

July 12, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Music Industry Proposes ISP Tax

Update (4 July 2008): Please note that this Press Release is 2 years old and relates to a proposal which is now, thankfully, off the table. ORG is keen for the music industry to come up with ways to monetise filesharing, but each proposal needs to be judged on its merits. If you are a member of the press and would like ORG to comment on a music industry proposal to monetise filesharing, please contact the ORG office on +44 (0) 20 7096 1079. You may be interested to know that we broadly subscribe to the 7 principles developed by Fred von Lohmann when it comes to judging what is a good or a bad approach to monetising filesharing. Cheers.

12 July 2006

A music industry coalition (1) today proposed a reform of UK copyright laws which, according to their press release, would see "Internet Service Providers (ISPs), mobile phone companies and device manufacturers" paying a levy or licence fee to the music industry for any illegal file sharing that their services or products enable.

This new right, which they have called the Value Recognition Right, would "allow the music industry to create a commercial relationship with any company deriving value from either the sharing or storage of music".

Suw Charman, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said, "This proposal is ill-conceived and grasping. Suggesting that ISPs and telcos should be responsible for the content transferred by their users illustrates how poorly the music industry understand the net, the right to privacy, and the ISPs' duties to their customers under the Data Protection Act. They are looking at booming technology markets, such as the growth in iPod sales, and wondering how they can get themselves a slice of the action."

If granted this right, the music industry could then force licences or levies on a wide variety of businesses, not just ISPs and telcos. Manufacturers of any device capable of storing an MP3 would need to pay up. This could include companies that make hard disks, mobile phones, portable media players, game consoles and memory cards/sticks.

Whilst some European countries have a levy on blank media, applying this to every service or product which 'derives value' from music would drastically over-extend copyright's reach.

Alan Cox, a respected Linux developer, says that this new right would likely be as harmful in the UK as the private copy levy has been in Europe.

"The private copy levy has seriously damaged new and novel music businesses, open source, data sharing applications, and business models based around media. It has also grossly distorted the market and led to many large EU companies importing all their CD media from the UK and other EU members who do not have a levy."

In their press release, the music industry have also said that they would then shift their focus from suing the public to suing "unlicensed intermediaries".

Digital rights activist Cory Doctorow says: "The music industry wants to make ISPs liable for the traffic they carry, and sue them if they don't take action to police their users. The only way to accomplish such a policing is to throttle, spy, and firewall out potentially infringing traffic, an incredibly invasive regime that has no basis in international copyright or telecommunications law."

The Value Recognition Right could damage ISPs' status as a 'common carrier' which means that ISPs are not responsible for the content of their network until they have been notified that illegal material is being hosted or transferred.

Says Charman, "AIM and their colleagues also seem to be implying that the ECommerce Directive, which protects ISPs' status as 'mere conduits' and is crucial to the net's development, should be torn up. Messing with that for financial gain would be very foolish. AIM's proposals are like charging the Post Office a fee in case some of the packages it delivers have illegally copied CDs in them, and making them responsible for the contents of every parcel they deliver."

Malcolm Hutty from ISP group LINX said, "We don't accept that ISPs should be responsible for paying for all the value that our customers acquire as a result of using the network. There are already very effective procedures in place which rights holders can use to pursue cases of copyright infringement and ISPs co-operate fully with such investigations, but beyond that, it's nothing to do with the ISP. There is no need for an ISP tax, and it is absolutely inappropriate that the ISP industry should be forced to seek a licence from the music industry in order to operate."

This announcement comes hot on the heals of the BPI's attempt to bully ISPs Cable & Wireless and Tiscali into disconnecting customers whom the BPI accused of illegal file sharing. And that action came just over a month after the music industry forced Tiscali to shut down their experimental Music Jukebox service, which offered users the chance to legally listen to millions of songs.

(1) Including the Association of Independent Music (AIM), British Music Rights (BMR), the Musicians Union (MU), Music Managers Forum (MMF), the royalty collection society the MCPS-PRS Alliance, and the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters (BACS).

For more information, contact Suw Charman, Executive Director, Open Rights Group: Mobile: +44 (0)20 7096 1079

[Read more]