Annual Report 2011


  1. Chair’s Foreword
  2. Organisational Report
    1. Accounts 2010
    2. Management Accounts 2011
  3. ORG’s Impact
    1. Free Speech
    2. Innovation and IP
    3. Privacy
    4. Legal rights and tech rights
  4. Appendix: Campaigns and communications tactics

Chair’s Foreword

James Cronin, Chair of the Open Rights Group Board

As we all foresaw our world is now digital. You and I live our lives online, earn our livings online, meet our friends online and spend our money online. Not in a strange disconnected parallel world called cyberspace, but in the real world, which digital technologies now pervade.

The influence of technology isn’t shrinking, its growth isn’t slowing and its sentiment isn’t depressed. Despite the macro economic troubles our country is experiencing our ‘Internet’ sector is growing in double digits. Furthermore, as confirmed in this week’s Boston Consulting Group report in this the UK leads the world.

There has never been a moment in history when the rate of change has been so great and in storms like this policy makers steering the ship have a truly daunting task and awesome responsibility. But we are the experts in this world and we share their responsibility. We must guide, inform, challenge and protest in order to protect the lives, liberties and livelihoods of us all.

I’m writing this foreword sitting at the back of the hall at ORGCon where hundreds of you are meeting today to help us plan and guide our route through this policy landscape, and it’s times like this when I can directly see how informed, enthusiastic and motivated you all are to protect and improve our world. That make me proud to Chair the Open Rights Group, and enjoy the pleasure of looking back on our last years’ work and to offer my thanks to all of you for your help and support.

2011 has been a year of consolidation and growth for ORG, seeing our financial position become more sustainable, and our staff skills strengthen and diversify. We have grown from a small team of two and a budget of under £50,000 in our early years to a team of six and an organization with a turnover of around £200,000 a year.

Pure finances however, are not how we measure success. There can be no doubt that we punch above our weight in our policy influence. This year, we severely dented the reputation of DCMS’s policy making, making them admit that the Digital Economy Act was in fact a “straw brick”, based on evidence the government was not permitted to examine. We mobilized the Open Data community into exposing the flaws in the “Public Data Corporation” and caused a rethink. In the last months, we exposed the machinations in the Home Office pushing for internet snooping, and we have seen incredible evidence out forward to the Hargreaves Review, on the topic of parody, purely through ORG’s work. We’ve also shown that default mobile censorship of “adult content” is a messy and damaging policy, that must not be extended to fixed Internet connections.

I would like to thank the staff for their hard work, and especially Nishma for her work with ORGCon, making it an even bigger and more successful event this year, and Peter, for his rigorous work on copyright reform, which is attracting the attention of policy makers at a very high level. I would also like to thank Simon Barnes, for his work on improving our financial management, and Javier Ruiz, for his timely interventions on Open Data policy, and the great prize of persuading GalaxyZoo to open source around £200,000 worth of transcription software for archival open data volunteers to use across the world; and Lee Maguire, who is already making strides improving our website and supporter management systems.

I’d like to thank Emma Byrne and Neil McGovern, as our first two elected Board members who are stepping down shortly, for their contributions, which have been highly knowledgeable and thoughtful; and Simon Collister and Vijay Sodiwala for their service on the Board, ending last Autumn; our funders, The Sigrid Rausing Trust, Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, Open Society Foundations, whose generosity deepens our reach on free expression, IP, Open Data and privacy issues.

Our office interns deserve a special word, including Habib Kadiri, Iman Kureshi, Jag Bahra, Oliver Keyes and Ryan Jendoubi, who made a particular contribution to our Zine, research and Wiki this year.

Finally, I would like to thank all of our supporters and volunteers. Without you we are nothing, and our successes, both past and future, belong to you.

Organisational report

Advisory Council

The AC is one of ORG’s strongest assets, providing expertise across technical, campaigning, creative and political spheres. From journalists to academics, we have some of the best minds in the UK actively advising and helping us develop policy.

This year, we recruited Chris Taggart and Tim Davies to help us with Open Data policy, to help develop new perspectives on the ways that transparency can help government accountability but also other rights. Trevor Callaghan, a technology and legal expert working at Google, David Allen Green, the lawyer libe; reform campaigner, and Paul Thomson, an active observer of UK IP policy and Liberal Democrat, all joined. Graham Linehan and Alex Cox joined, as leading UK creators.


Out Board held an open recruitment process, and appointed Maria Farrell, with experience at ICANN, Simon Phipps, with senior management experience at Sun and active work in the open source world, and Alec Muffett, with security expertise and strong current connections in tech activism.

The Board also settled on a pattern of appointing two sets of three representatives, and electing a further three. Each group will serve a term of three years, ensuring a smooth rotation and inflow of new ideas and enthusiasm.

The Executive Director reports to the Board every two months, and develops a business plan for the Board annually. This year, the board has asked to continue a strong rate of growth – around 25% – and for the whole of ORG to look at our strategy for the next three years. This process will take place over the summer.


Our staff team changed considerably during 2011, and we diversified our staff skills and experience. Peter Bradwell, a former researcher working on copyright and privacy at Demos joined us at the start of the year. Nishma Doshi joined us in May, with a background in grassroots activism, to help us develop our community and events. We recruited Lee Maguire in September to take care of our technical systems and develop tech activism projects. He is currently working on our website and membership systems.

Our other staff members are Simon Barnes, an administrator with considerable financial and press experience, and Javier Ruiz, who has many years experience in technology, grassroots organisation and campaigning. Javier has been responsible for the Open Data, archives and genealogy work funded by FreeBMD.

There are areas where ORG still needs to develop staff capabilities, notably in legal expertise, communications and fund raising.


ORG depends on our volunteers, for regular financial support, legitimacy when we speak, and to amplify our campaigning voice at every level. We are committed to developing our community and keeping it central to our work.

At the start of last year, we felt we were in need of reconnecting with our grassroots. Our main connection with our volunteers was Michael, who left in 2010, and had previously organized regular meetings, social events and provided updates to supporters.

We felt we needed staff focused specifically on these community-building tasks, and also someone to work specifically on projects that would appeal to our tech community, to reactivate ORG’s work with them.

The projects that have so far come out of this approach include:

  • The work, monitoring the mobile networks;
  • Our parody campaign, fuelled by contributions from the B3TA community;
  • Monthly London meetups, starting last summer with our Reconnect event; now growing in popularity and being given a strong push by Alec Muffett;
  • ORGCon 2012, co-ordinated by Nishma;
  • Our first practical steps with TOR, by providing a bridge run from our office;
  • New and much more informative monthly emails;
  • ORGZine, run and written entirely by ORG volunteers;
  • Our office Intern programme, which is bringing many new and talented volunteers into ORG;
  • Outreach to events and conventions, including the Radical Media Conference, Netroots Manchester, Haciaith Aberystwyth, PHP UK, Nominet, FLOSS UK in Edinburgh and locally focused events like Reading Geek Night.


We did not engage in any major recruitment campaigns during 2011, with the result that our supporter numbers were roughly static through the year. The main reason for this was that we were preparing plans for 2012 and doing the basic work to revitalize our community activities, alongside profile raising work at the Radical Media Conference.

We appointed Nishma Doshi mid year to carry out future recruitment work, which started in earnest with our event with Richard Stallman in November. Over 100 new supporters have joined in run up to ORGCon showing ORG’s continued ability to grow quickly and effectively.


In 2011, about half of our funding came from supporter donations. ORG received funding from the Open Society Institute, FreeBMD, the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust and the Sigrid Rausing Trust. The SRT have since awarded us £30,000 per annum for three years as core funding.

We received our first long term commercial sponsorship this year, from Bytemark, who offered us free web hosting services. We received a large number of one-off donations, including £1,000 from the Daily Mail, after they published photography by Alice Taylor without permission.


We were unable to run an ORGCon during 2011, instead scheduling it for the start of 2012. This was purely down to the logisitics of finding a venue and speakers after appointing our new Events Officer, Nishma Doshi, in May 2011. Our plan is to book a venue for next year’s event in the near future so the date is clear, known and fixed roughly nine months in advance.

ORGCon is a major plank in our programme to develop ORG’s community. It is a major training event, allowing ORG supporters to hear new ideas, get involved in new debates and get involved in our projects.

Report and Accounts 2011

ORG’s impact

ORG’s work concentrates on the biggest digital rights threats. There are rising threats to free speech through censorship and restrictive copyright laws. ORG worked in 2011 on net censorship of copyright infringing sites and extremist websites and default web blocking for adults, on mobile and fixed networks.

The copyright and IP lobby drives proposals to over-regulate the net and technology, to restrict its capabilities for citizens and to increase surveillance. Meanwhile, copyright restricts innovation, especially in the UK, denying us the fruits that the reuse of information can deliver. ORG worked on copyright reform, ACTA, the Digital Economy Act and net neutrality.

Even Open Data initiatives to improve government transparency can be threatened by vested commercial interests within government. ORG worked in 2011 on the proposed Public Data Corporation and the broad changes to Open Data policy, and the deliberate conflation of the Open Data agenda with commercial, restricted reuse of government personal data.

Privacy threats come from Internet companies themselves, and governments, both of whom seek to gather information to profile and classify citizens.

Impact: Innovation and IP

The right to innovate, and the ability of citizens to benefit from and shape the technology they use, is a core value for ORG. We are concerned to make sure that ‘intellectual property’ (IP) – or patents, copyrights and trade marks – are evaluated for their role as an economic incentive, and are not abused to unfairly restrict the rights of others.

During the Digital Economy Act debates, politicians had recognized that copyright was frequently being unfair to consumers. They had noted that the law might need to make copyright more flexible, especially to grant user rights like format shifting, to legalise the act of copying music from a CD to an MP3 file.

Later in 2010, the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration signalled its desire to look at IP and make sure it was able to deliver economic growth. David Cameron launched a large scale review of copyright and patents, asking why it was that UK copyright law was so restrictive such that a company like Google wouldn’t choose to set up in the UK.

2011 was destined to be a critical year for innovation and modernising copyright so that it did not get in the way of technological progress and new business opportunities.

Hargreaves Review

Opening up the political space for copyright reform has been one of ORG’s greatest contributions. We are by no means the only organization doing this: Consumer Focus, the libraries, and tech companies are doing it too, but ORG has been one of the key voices, as the only citizen-based NGO making a serious contribution.

The Hargreaves Review emerged from the dissatisfaction of politicians and perhaps also the Business Innovation and Skills department (BIS) and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) with the Digital Economy Act. Why had it failed to address the need to modernize copyright, and instead concentrate solely on enforcement? Even the proposals that had made it into the Bill, like proposals on orphan works (such as out of print books whose copyright owner cannot be traced) had in the end been dropped.

The Review had forward-looking people on its panel, and ORG did a lot to keep in touch with every level of the review. In 2011, we submitted a full response to the questions.

The Review’s recommendations are ambitious but sensible. Following their release, we have worked very hard to contribute evidence and participate in the IPO’s work.

Most significantly, we have worked on the exception for parody, partly because of the free speech and innovation concerns, and partly because there is no other organization that would be likely to take on this work. Unlike format shifting, which is a consumer issue and priority for Consumer Focus, or data mining, which impacts libraries and academics, nobody else was likely to push for this reform.

Nevertheless, ORG is very interested in the other issues in Hargreaves, and we have been working on exceptions for text mining as well as format shifting.

ACTA campaign

In November we established, through the answers to questions tabled by Julian Huppert MP, that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) had been waived through the UK’s Parliamentary scrutiny process with little actual scrutiny. And the UK continues to support this flawed treaty. Whether ACTA passes is now in the hands of European decision makers.

There is concern about ACTA because its overly broad definitions, harsh punitive measures and lack of democratic validity make it a danger to how our Internet is governed and to freedom of expression and privacy online. Its drafting and passage through European decision making forums was woefully undemocratic, which is one reason it is so imbalanced. We helped promote the UK ‘leg’ of the Europe-wide protests against ACTA in February. The European Parliament has begun to express serious reservations about the treaty, and the European Commission has decided to ask the European Court of Justice for an opinion. We will continue to push for Parliament to reject ACTA, and promote a more fundamental, evidence-based reevaluation of intellectual property law in the digital age.

Net neutrality

We have participated in the UK’s process to create some safeguards for net neutrality, led by Ed vaizey at DCMS. We criticized Ed when the process started for some very poor statements that really did not reflect the concerns and problems. The consultation process, between DCMS and the Broadband Stakeholders Group, has been relatively limited, and avoids the critical question of Ofcom involvement.

As an issue, it has yet to bite in the UK, but violations are increasingly common and potentially seriously damaging to innovation. This is particularly true for peer-to-peer.

Open Government Data

The Coalition started office with radical commitments to government transparency and accountability through the release of government data to the public. Last year, the policy started to shift towards data on public services. We have been building a broader coalition of consumer groups and civil society to ensure commercial interests are balanced.

Another big development in this area is the newly created Public Data Group (PDG), which will sell core reference data such as maps and weather. This new organisation will be balanced by a Data Strategy Board tasked with increasing the available open data form the PDG. ORG is engaging in the development of those new bodies and the composition of the board and other open data structures.

Archives and digitization

Access to public archives and libraries is taken for granted, but the digitisation of cultural materials that are not subjected to copyright currently generates new intellectual property and contractual restrictions, which diminish the availability of public domain materials in the digital world.

We have been working specifically with family history groups creating the Open Genealogy Alliance. We are producing legal briefings and research reports, e.g. on access to parish records.

We helped convince GalaxyZoo to open source key transcription software for archival data: a project that has invested substantial sums in development. ORG is also helping lobby for the opening of the civil register.

Lastly, we are helping create a new charity to undertake digitisation projects that preserve the public domain, primarily led by volunteers.

Digital Economy Act

Nearly two years after having been passed, the badly flawed Digital Economy Act is still yet to be implemented. ORG intervened last year in the Judicial Review of the Act brought by BT and TalkTalk, submitting evidence on the ‘proportionality’ of the Act, and raising questions about the evidence gathered about infringers, privacy issues and the impact on public wifi. The challenge recently failed at appeal stage. Subject to a further appeal to the Supreme Court, this clears the way for implementation of the Act.

The two pieces of the Digital Economy Act jigsaw that are still to be finalised are the Sharing of Costs Order and the Initial Obligations Code. Both are proceeding through notification to the European Commission. The latter is expected to be particularly problematic, with problems remaining for the provision of public WiFi, the standards of evidence required against alleged infringement and the appeals process. The development of the revised Obligations Code has been significantly delayed due in part to the Judicial Review. However, indications are that the regulator Ofcom has failed to fully address our core issues. We expect the updated Initial Obligations Code to be published shortly.

Impact: privacy

Our privacy work is expanding, and is a major concern for technology users. Privacy is a fundamental human right, protected in British and European law.

Data Protection

At its basic level, privacy is about trust and security; but it is also about power. Information about you allows companies to do things, good and bad. It also gives companies market leverage, through knowing and understanding their user base. Increasingly, therefore, questions about your user data are becoming issues of competition and market control.

When we responded to the Ministry of Justice’s call for evidence in 2010, their questions made it plain that they were seeking to understand burdens placed on business by data protection, rather than problems that end users had with enforcing their rights, or the failures of data protection to deliver secure and trusted information services.

We joined EDRI in visiting the Commission to explain civil societies’ concerns. We explained that privacy was important for users’ trust. In our case, we also explained the deep problems that the UK faces with our Information Commissioner, and the lack of powers, botched definitions and poor enforcement of data protection law.

Cookies and profiling

Behavioural advertising first became an active area of concern when BT and Phorm started intercepting their customers web traffic. But Phorm is merely the worst example among many; the trade in data about you, collected via third party cookies is pervasive and almost always takes place without your prior consent.

Last year, the EU’s amendment to the e-Privacy Directive came into force, requiring that users’ consent be required before cookies are placed onto a users’ computer, excepting those used to keep websites working. The Directive has come under attack by industry, partly because some tracking cookies are used by analytics and other services considered very useful by websites, and because advertisers are highly resistant to the idea of obtaining consent.

The basic problem is that users have no real way to signal consent, or effectively stop their information being spread to myriad companies that partner to most commonly visited commercial websites.

ORG kept a close watch on the situation, and went to meetings in the EU and with DCMS to put forward the simple message that user consent is paramount. We also, decided that we should get proactively involved with the W3C to defend the new Do Not Track (DNT) standard.

DNT will work by allowing a user to set their web browser “signal” to websites that they do not wish to be tracked. Ad networks and others should then respect this signal, and take steps to minimize or delete the data they collect.

The battle at W3C is between companies who want to retain most or a lot of the data, to allow extensive reuse, but limit the profiling activities; and civil society representatives who are determined that DNT really does make a meaningful impact on data collection and storage.

ORG is inputting into the discussions where appropriate and working with civil society groups to help W3C reach a good conclusion in their work.

Communications Capabilities Development Plan

The Intercept Modernisation Plan, IMP, was meant to have died when the Labour government lost the election. This plan, to force ISPs to collect “traffic data” about your online communications, is extremely intrusive. By knowing who you talk to, and often where you are, all kinds of inference may be made. By storing this in a series of databases, law enforcement could potentially search records on a speculative basis to look for patterns of behaviour or types of person.

A great deal of your communications data is stored by companies like Facebook, Google or Yahoo. If the government wants even the “traffic data”, then it must approach the company and ask. Generally that requires at least a senior officer to sign a request.

That makes mass fishing expeditions impractical. Under the new scheme, they could become easy and routine. Other risks will be generated. It is difficult to see how whistleblowers, journalistic sources or even MPs could be protected when records of who they are talking to, and when, would be recorded and be easily accessible.

During the year, there was little sign that anything was happening, save mentions in strategy documents and budgets. However, there were persistent rumours that Labour’s plans would resurface.

Eventually, at the end of the year the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) let their members know about the potential for the Communication Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP) to be relaunched, after being briefed by Home Office officials. At this point ORG began working on it extremely hard. There are now a stream of media reports, FOI requests and Parliamentary Questions trying to dig at what is happening, which have been initiated by our push to shed light on the government’s intentions.


A worrying conflation of the commercial sale of government personal data, like health records, and “open data” has emerged from the office of the Transparency Tzar, Tim Kelsey.

We have been working to help the Open Data community understand possible privacy risks, and talking at international and Westminster events about this. But the problem has little to do with ‘open data’. Most of the UK datasets in question are not going to be openly published: they are going to be accessed on a commercial basis, to create government revenues and “value to industry”. The safeguards against the identification of real people would be through ‘anonymisation’ techniques, the safety of which is increasingly challenged by technical experts.

Impact: free speech

Free speech

ORG’s work on free speech has become critical in the last year. In the last year, Internet censorship has become a fashionable and simplistic response from lazy policy makers. In some cases, it seems politicians are prone to thinking that they need an “Internet dimension” to their field, and the easiest response they can think of is to advocate censorship. Such thinking is not merely lazy: it is dangerous and counter-productive.

There are very few cases where censorship is likely to produce the desired results. The reasons are often very simple. Only in the most morally clear and outrageous circumstances is censorship likely to be acceptable to the majority of people.

The first, basic characteristic of censorship is that while it may work for the majority of the population, with no particular desire to access the material, anyone determined to get at whatever is banned, can do so. Thus, censorship may punish the innocent majority, but will not restrict the determined, sympathetic or criminal. This is particularly true of network censorship, as the Internet is inherently designed to allow content to travel as freely as possible, and to create many, many ways to communicate.

The second characteristic is that the target of censorship will appear to be both victimised and perhaps more important than they are. Censorship is the tool of the state, which wields a lot of power. Anyone censored is easily seen as a David in a struggle against a Goliath, but also is by implication actually creating a threat worth restricting. Both give impetus to the person or group suffering censorship.

Censorship often also allows governments to pretend that the social problem has been dealt with. Sometimes, the people using or generating the censored content continue unabated, while the pressure to deal with serious crime is reduced, as it “appears” to have been made inaccessible.

While censorship is generally poor public policy, when it is proposed, there are duties that governments must follow if they are to abide by international human rights norms. Censorship must be ordered by a court, it must balance the interests of the parties involved, and limit the impact on free expression. It must not take place as the result of automated procedures, algorithmic selection, or through private selection of material, under the guise of “self regulation” by industry.


Nominet have for around two years been responding to police notification that .uk domains are being used for criminal activity, mostly in relation to fraud, false ticket sales and fake branded goods. Several thousand domains have been suspended, and on a few occasions complaints by their owners have been referred to and adjudicated by the police units requesting the suspensions.

The London Met’s e-crime unit have been making the notifications, although they have no specific power to compel Nominet to suspend a domain. The police and other agencies have made the argument that Nominet can or should act, through enforcement of their terms and conditions with their customers. Additionally they have stated that Nominet may be liable under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Nominet created an “Issue Group”, composed of police, industry and civil society representatives including ORG to look at creating a mechanism for UK police and law enforcement to notify Nominet on domains used for criminal activity. Nominet wished to know how it might protect the interests of its customers and the general public, including by helping to make criminal material harder to find, where Nominet was the only reasonable means to take action.

Although the group did try to find a workable way to balance the interest of everyone involved, it became apparent that the positions of civil society and the Internet industry were at odds with Nominet’s practice and law enforcement’s desires.

LINX, ISPA, Privacy International and ORG were of the opinion that court orders are the only proper protection of people’s fundamental right to access to justice. This right is not something that can be given up. Where the police ask for domains to be suspended, they need to be fully accountable to open legal processes, and any internal procedure created by Nominet would not deliver that. If new police powers are needed, that is something that Parliament should debate.

At this point, Nominet are deciding what to do with the advice they have been given. ORG has scored a success in being represented on the inside, and being able to help a coalition of civil society groups to influence the development of policy.

UK riots

This summer, politicians from David Lammy to the Prime Minister were keen to put Blackberry Messenger and other tools in the spotlight after rioting took place across the UK. These tools had been used to organize the rioting, it was alleged, and they should therefore be shut down in times of disquiet.

Such an idea is obviously dangerous, from the point of view of unbalanced powers, the example it sets to undemocratic regimes elsewhere, and even the physical risks it would place on individuals trying to escape from physical threats, such as burning and looting.

ORG responded by mobilizing free speech groups firstly to write to the government about their approach, and then in the Autumn, to contrast William Hague’s public commitments to a free and open Internet, and respect for human rights, with the UK governments’ stance on a number of human rights issues, including default censorship of adult content, and the apparent desire to shut down communications networks during the UK riots.

ORG’s suspicion was that the government’s intentions would shift from switching networks off, to finding new ways to increase surveillance. New ideas may find their way into the Communications Capabilities development Plan: but so far nothing has been publicly released.

UK censorship proposals

Mobile and adult content censorship

Last summer, Claire Perry started a campaign for adult content to blocked on Internet networks by default. She argued that children and others could access adult material by accident, and that this could be harmful to them. She created a broad coalition of MPs to campaign for default blocking that adults could ‘opt out’ of, much as happens on the mobile Internet today.

The censoring of websites through automated and opt out systems is likely to serve nobody well. It poses privacy risks and creates a moral impetus to live with censorship: who wants to say, yes, I want pornography? Most of all, it creates a huge problem, even today, for websites to find out when they are accidentally blocked and get those blocks removed.

We also need to be sensitive to the harms that automated child safety causes to children. Automated filters that are set at a level.

Right to parody

Parodies can fall foul of copyright law. If your parody “copies” anything from a film or book you are parodying, then you can be accused of copyright infringement in the UK. Yet many countries, including France, Australia and the USA, permit people to use copyright material in this way.

For ORG, this is a simple free speech issue. You can’t be expected to get someone’s permission to make fun of them. And you can’t avoid using material like logos and designs when making a parody. Particularly for campaigners who want to parody corporations to show up their double standards, or for artists who want to engage with the everyday experience of commercial culture, these rights are vital.

We therefore started, in 2011, a right to parody campaign. Our aim was to find campaigners and artists who knew what it meant to be on the wrong end of the stick. The campaign was picked up by the B3TA Community, and has been a very significant success. There are some great parodies generated by their parody image challenge. And since then, we’ve collected evidence from artists such as Swede mason and Cassetteboy, who have suffered as a result of these copyright restrictions, and whose creative careers have arguably been stifled.

Frank la Rue, the UN and international human rights evaluations

The UK and France were singled out for criticism by UN Human Rights Rapporteur Frank La Rue last year.

This would not have happened but for the campaign ORG and others ran against the Bill. We drew special attention to the impacts of website blocking and of disconnecting families for alleged copyright violations; Frank la Rue’s report for the UN confirmed our view that civil offences should not result in punishments directly impacting people’s right to communicate.

The UN makes assessments of its members’ human rights records, in a process called ‘Periodic Review’. This year, it is the UK’s turn. Last year, we engaged with this process and submitted evidence to the UN on the range of ORG’s work. We were able to cite the report from Frank La Rue. His views are hard to dismiss, but it is ORG’s campaigning work that has helped lead us to be able to challenge the UK directly on the Act’s human rights impacts.

Impact: legal rights and tech activism

Legal rights

Helping people with their legal rights is an emerging theme in our work. ORG is not currently geared up to take on individual legal cases, or make large numbers of referrals, but nevertheless we do receive legal requests. Working with ORG Law, we offer these cases to the lawyers and solicitors there, with no guarantee that they can help, but frequently they do.

We also helped with a Trade Mark domain dispute. A small UK volunteer group called were threatened by a major US company selling cleaning products under the same name. We helped them raise over £1,000 so they could fight the domain dispute properly and retain their registration. This was a small but for us important victory. The fact is that you can stand up against IP bullies, and ORG will be there to help you when we can.

Tech activism

In 2011, we hired a Tech Officer, Lee Maguire, to help develop tech activism projects. He is currently working through some of our basic IT systems to help ORG run more smoothly, but we are intending to start running more projects focused on using technology to enforce our rights. As a first foot in the door, ORG agreed to host a TOR bridge, donated by the TOR Project and hosted on a Excito B3 box. TOR is a way of helping users remain anonymous on the Internet and access material that is censored in some countries.

ORG will also host a hidden Wifi range over TOR as an experimental research tool.

APPENDIX Campaigns and Communications tactics

ORG’s campaign skills and tactics continue to develop and diversify. In past years, we haven’t tried to map out all of the ways in which ORG tries to work, but this year, as we have developed new ways of campaigning which we wish to grow, this report covers some of the ways we work, as well as the work itself. We would welcome feedback from supporters about how useful this is.

Email and phone your MP and MEP actions

We use email MP actions as a key campaign tactic for mobilizing ORG’s grassroots support. While email is becoming diluted as a weapon in the eyes of some MP – especially given the volumes of mail that can be generated by 38 Degrees in particular – it is still an effective weapon at key moments. ORG used it to good effect to promote EDM 1913 on Internet freedoms during 2011. At other times, we have gathered petition signatures, both to present to Parliament at an opportune moment, and to help consolidate a group of people prepared to campaign.

In general, we want to use these tools as a way not just of mobilizing large numbers of people at key moments but also of developing relations between ORG supporters and their MPs.

Press online and offline

ORG’s online reach in the press is often greater than conventional media, who are sometimes still skeptical of digital rights issues. However, this is changing and ORG is often the go-to organisation for comment on copyright, online censorship and privacy issues.

In early 2012, we appeared twice on BBC News at 6 and 10, after the SOPA defeats in the USA and after the attack on Google’s privacy policy.

We also, though, want to drive the news. For this, we need to get new information into the debate. We have tried this successfully with freedom of information requests and releases of original research in 2011, and by working to expose the new CCDP in 2012.

Reports and research

Last year also saw us begin to increase our output of original research. With strong research skills and staff capacity, we are much more able to produce original research in order to influence the debate through presenting new information. Peter Bradwell produced a simple but influential study of the availability of film online in the summer. We also last year started gathering original evidence on parody and copyright, and on mobile network’s default censorship. We are conducting original research on archival material and public access for our FreeBMD grant work.

Freedom of information

During 2011, we made a conscious effort to improve our use of Freedom of Information requests. As well, as training for staff, we formed a volunteer group to work on FOI requests and suggest ones to make. Because we wish to be able to time the public release of the information we receive, to maximize publicity, we cannot currently use We have requested that they add a feature for organizations to time and delay such releases.

Activist campaigns

We also, last year, felt we needed to increase the participation from supporters in campaigns beyond simple emails and political actions, to engage people directly in a range of activities.

Monthly emails

We have also restarted our monthly emails, and redesigned them for higher impact. We use them to update all 30,000 of our campaign supporters on ORG’s work, the meeting we speak at and the key challenges to digital rights.

Working on the inside

Our work with policy makers has improved very considerably over the last year. This has always been a feature of how ORG works, but with a team of three people dedicated to this work, and active members of the Advisory Council, we are making a bigger impression on policy. The Hargreaves Review and scrutiny of it has been aided by our contributions, as have Cabinet Office, IPO, DCMS and Ofcom officials working closely with us. We have made less in-roads with the Home Office, but we do at least have contact with their officials.

With each of these organizations, we also work closely with our friends and allies, especially Consumer Focus, Privacy International, Which?, Big Brother Watch and Liberty, on most of our issues; Privacy International, Genewatch and others on the privacy side, and Index on Censorship and Article 19 on censorship; OKFN on Open Data, and ISPA, Coadec, Open Digital and LINX on Internet regulation.

ORG responds to every consultation that we can, but especially where we are working actively. This year, this has included Hargeaves, Data Protection, and Parliamentary committees on ICT and copyright.

We are well networked with several influential think tanks including Policy Exchange and Demos. We have started to build networks of academics that work on digital research to help them bring their knowledge directly into policy making.

ORG has been a major force behind building many new networks and informal coalitions. They are an effective way of defending digital rights, by making sure everyone with a public interest perspective is able to understand each others concerns and goals, and work for them together.

We have ambitions to extend our influence into even more areas, especially with trades unions and inside all of the UK’s political parties. We have helped the Lib Dems in particular but would like to build influence within all of the UK’s major political parties.

We have also recognized a need to nurture independent voices for artists and creators, and have this as a goal for 2012.


ORG participates in a number of international networks, including the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), European digital networks including IINDEP Hub. We work especially closely with EDRI –European Digital Rights – which is a coalition of organizations similar in outlook to ORG, like the EFF, Bits of Freedom in the Netherlands and Panoptykon in Poland. EDRI is developing into a useful and effective organisation since taking on a staff structure led by Joe McNamee, a move strongly recommended by ORG to both EDRI and the OSI. We are engaged with EDRI over their future strategic development, hoping to see them move to a more well-funded, agile structure, better able to support EDRI members.