Annual Report 2013


Company Information 

Directors’ Report 

Accountants’ Report 

Income and Expenditure Account 

Balance Sheet 

Notes to Financial Statements 

Company Information


James Cronin

Simon Phipps

Alec Muffett

Maria Farrell

Harry Metcalfe

Ben Laurie

Milena Popova

Owen Blacker

John Elliott 

Secretary James Cronin 

Accountants Urban Ledgers Ltd 14 Thornhill Square London NI 1BQ 

Bankers Cooperative Bank plc PO Box 101 1 Balloon Street Manchester M60 4EP 

Open Rights Report of the Board of Directors for the year ended 31 October 2013

Principal activities

  • The principal activities of Open Rights (which trades as the Open Rights Group or ORG) are: 
  • To raise awareness of digital rights matters in the media, with policy makers and with the general public. 
  • To preserve and extend civil, human and consumer rights in the digital environment.

To nurture and assist a community of campaigning volunteers.

This is achieved by, among other things: the organisation of grassroots campaigns; lobbying politicians and policy makers; the provision of a media clearinghouse service; and the publication of research and white papers. 

Financial results for the year

The financial results for the year are set out on page 6. 


In the year to 31 October 2013, Open Rights Group continued to grow both in terms of supporters and overall income, allowing us to significantly develop our campaigning. 

In addition to continued campaigning on reform of copyright laws, data protection regulations, and open data, ORG achieved a major success in our campaign against the Communications Data Bill, which was dropped. However, the year was dominated by revelations of mass digital surveillance by the security agencies of both the UK and the USA (often known as the Edward Snowden revelations, referring to the man who leaked details of the programmes). In response, ORG has developed a major campaign against these surveillance programmes, with backing from two grant making trusts. The multi-stranded campaign will be developed further in 2013-14. 

For the second year in a row, over 350 supporters and activists attended ORGCon, ORG’s annual conference, held in June 2013. In addition, ORG staged a smaller conference away from London, ORGCon North. These events, along with other activities, helped us to substantially increase the number of paying supporters and donations, further details of which are included on page 3. We are grateful to all our supporters for their contribution. 

At the end of the year ORG had three full-time and four part-time staff based in London, and an increased number of volunteers organising activities in groups around the country. 


Filtering and online censorship 

The government was pushing for ‘default’ filters that people would have to switch off. By December 2012, the Department for Education had rejected default filtering (switch on without consent) noting a large majority of people objecting to the effects of filtering. However, this did not end campaigns for defaults. Government deliberately conflated calls for filtering of pornography with concern over child abuse. ORG became the main UK expert voice, because of our evidence, campaigning and complaints service.

Error 451 

Error 451 is a suggested web error code like “404” to indicate censorship takes place. An error page would state that the material is “Unavailable for legal reasons”. ORG started documenting UK copyright blocking in order to establish legal transparency. The website caught global attention. Data protection ORG visited MEPs and ran a major campaign, to stop the new data protection regulation from being watered down.

Mass surveillance 

The first half of 2013 saw us fight the draft Communications Data Bill, where we helped get it pushed to a scrutiny committee at which we gave oral evidence. The committee was highly critical, reporting in December 2012. By June 2013 the Liberal Democrats had forced the Bill to be dropped due to the report and public campaigning. 

Copyright reform

The year’s work also included support for changes to copyright law to enable format shifting and parody. Although these did not materialise by the end of 2013, they are expected in 2014. In 2012 we challenged Goldeneye’s right to user data for copyright infringement claims in court, and although we were unsuccessful on this occasion this signals a significant step to ORG becoming a more legally active organisation: we expect to make more challenges through the courts in future, and are increasing legal resources and funding to allow this. 

ECHR Legal challenge to PRISM, Tempora and UK law

Together with English Pen, Constanze Kurz and Big Brother Watch, ORG is challenging UK law at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), saying that is not clear that RIPA could be used to authorise mass surveillance. It does not pass the test of being ‘in accordance with the law’. ORG produced the website and ran the costs fundraising campaign, raising £27,000 in three days. If successful the challenge will force the UK to rewrite the law. 

Future plans 

ORG intends to develop its legal capacity, communications and campaigns, and technical projects. From being primarily a policy body, we intend to defend and extend digital rights through legal challenges to help people enforce their rights, technical projects that defend privacy, or expose abuse and help people complain when their rights are infringed. We expect the ECHR challenge sometime in 2014 or 2015.

Financial situation 

Open Rights Group’s income grew substantially for the fourth successive year and, at a total of over £290,000, grew over 20 per cent compared with one year earlier and is almost double what it was three years earlier. Supporter donations and gifts grew slightly more than grant income, preserving the balance of income between grants from grant making trusts (50 per cent of income) and individual donations (46 per cent). Other income, amounting to over £12,000 came mostly from the two ORGCon conferences held during the year. ORG is very appreciative of the individuals and grant-giving bodies who have funded our work. 

We received grant funding from four trusts. The Open Society Foundations (OSF) renewed their funding, for a further two years from March 2013. In addition, OSF provided a grant of $24,900 (£15,736) for a short project on Data Protection carried out in April – May 2013, and a grant of just over $47,000 for a one-year project on Open Data and Privacy starting in September 2013, of which £4,789 fell in this accounting year. OSF (formerly Open Society Institute) has funded us every year for over six years. ORG received two consecutive grants from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT), totaling £42,822 in the year. Sigrid Rausing Trust funding towards core activities continued, at £30,000. Finally the Oak Foundation gave us an informal one-off grant of £10,000. 

Activities aimed at recruiting new paying supporters together with widespread concern about mass digital surveillance contributed to a surge in support: the number of regular donors increased by over 30 per cent to 1905 in the year to 31 October 2013. These supporters predominantly donate monthly, typically £5 or £10 a month by direct debit, standing order or PayPal. One-off donations totalled nearly £25,000, including a generous donation of £15,000 from the Charles Dunstone Charitable Trust, and £5,174 towards the “Goldeneye’ legal intervention. In addition, during October 2013 we received donations totalling over £28,000 specifically for a legal challenge against government surveillance programmes (under the banner ‘Privacy not Prism’). This fundraising campaign continued into the following financial year, and as the donations were raised to finance a future initiative, these funds (after deduction of donation processing charges) are included in the total for Funding received in advance on the Balance Sheet. 

Increased support and income enabled us to increase our output, which resulted in a matching increase in costs, to over £290,000 for the year. By far the largest cost remains expenditure on salaries, which increased by around £24,000, partly as a result of the recruitment of a new part-time member of staff and increased hours worked by other part-time employees. Other expenditure also increased, for example major website improvements increased our website expenditure to nearly £8,000, the Goldeneye legal challenge added £5,000 to accounting and legal costs, and public event costs up from around £2,400 to over £11,300, reflecting increased engagement with the public on a range of campaign issues. As a result, ORG incurred a small loss in the year to 31 October 2013, amounting to £1,586. This reduced reserves to £36,885. We believe we can build up reserves in future in line with increased income, without compromising our core campaigning objectives.

Directors’ remuneration Directors of Open Rights are volunteers and none received remuneration for their services during this year.

Company status The company is limited by guarantee and all members have agreed to contribute a sum not exceeding £1 in the event/of a winding up. Number of guarantors at 31 October 2013 – three.

By order of the Board 

Harty Metcalfe, Director 

Accountants’ Report to the Directors of Open Rights 

You consider that the company is exempt from audit for the year ended 31 October 2013. You have acknowledged, on the balance sheet, your responsibilities for complying with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006 with respect to accounting records and the preparation of the accounts. These responsibilities include preparing accounts that give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the company at the end of the financial year and its profit or loss for the financial year. 

In accordance with your instructions, we have prepared the accounts which comprise the Profit and Loss Account, the Balance Sheet and the related notes from the accounting records of the company and on the basis of information and explanations you have given to us. 

The accounting records and explanations provided appear to be reasonable, however we have not carried out an audit or any other review, and consequently we do not express any opinion on these accounts. 

Urban Ledgers Ltd 14 Thornhill Square London NI 1BQ 

Date 26/6/14