Supporter Newsletter

October 31, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - October 2007


  • Creative Business in the Digital Age: ORG's new project

ORG has teamed up with with tech-educators 01zero-one and the London Development Agency to research businesses distributing digital creative works for free. Preliminary examples include authors publishing books under Creative Commons and in print, musicians offering both free and pay-for music, or software developers using APIs. If you know of or are directly involved in a similar project, please drop an email to creativebusiness at openrightsgroup dot org. Alternatively, click to our new blog and wiki where we're asking for help in gathering research materials. The project will run until March, with the aim of producing cc-licensed educational materials for remix and re-use.

  • New Board members

We're delighted to announce three appointments to the Open Rights Group board of directors. Our recruitment process sought to attract professional legal and financial skills, as well as Board level experience. The new Directors possess these qualities, and no doubt many others, in spades. David Harris is a practising IP / IT barrister, Dan McQuillan was Amnesty's web guru and Vijay Sodiwala is a veteran technology, media and telecommunications executive. Their appointments will complement nicely the already-bountiful range of skills and experience on our Board.

  • Byron Review - report collaborators needed, parents especially

The Byron Review is an independent review of the risks to children from exposure to potentially harmful or inappropriate material on the internet and in video games. ORG is meeting Tanya Byron, the clinical psychologist and TV star who's heading the review, and will produce an evidence-based submission in the coming weeks. The deadline for submissions is 30 November, so we need your help quick sharp to compose our response. Take a read of our blogpost for a flavour of the questions asked, then head to Consult to record your remarks. The issues are already being pulled apart by the org-discuss community.

  • Bloodspell and the rise of Machinima: screening and panel discussion

Bloodspell, produced by the pioneering Strange Company, is a world-first: a feature-length, machinima animated film. London Metropolitan University and Open Rights Group are proud to present a screening, followed by a panel discussion, of this special film. The Q&A, chaired by cyberlaw queen and ORG Advisory Councillor, Lilian Edwards, will feature Bloodspell's writer and director, Hugh Hancock; Creative Commoner, hackademic and blogger, Andres Guadamuz; and other panelists to be confirmed. The screening takes place on Thursday 22 November, starting at 18.00 . We do not yet have a room number (details to follow on the blog and lists), but venue is London Met's Graduate Centre, 166-220 Holloway Road, London N7 8DB (14). It will be first come, first served, so we advise getting there early to guarantee a seat. There will be some kind of alcohol and buffet offering, but no popcorn.

  • Next volunteer meeting: Wednesday 14 November

Our next volunteer meeting will be at 18.30 on Wednesday 14 November at ORG HQ (7th floor, 100 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8AL). Please indicate on the wiki if you plan to join us. Do also include suggestions if you have a particular project you think ORG should get involved with. We'll circulate an agenda and IRC details closer to the time. We may be able to offer limited teleconference facilities, please hit reply if you wish to dial-in.

  • Date for your diaries: ORG's collaborative xmas party will be 15 December, more info to follow

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues. Again, some of our fine moments this month were offline, so we can't supply a link.

BBC Radio 4 - 'PM: 1 October 2007' ORG was invited to join the debate on Radiohead's decision to release their latest LP in DRM-free formats, and for whatever fans chose to pay. ORG congratulated the band for this bold experiment, which recognises that there are better ways to do digital than punishing your customers. (Unfortunately, this programme is no longer available online.)

Computer Weekly - 'Tories slam 'gimmicky' web voting and call for urgent action on e-crime' Rebecca Thomson joined our electronic elections fringe event at the Conservative Party conference. Her thoughtful article picks up on our position that electronic elections will not be suitable for democratic use within the next 10 to 15 years, as well as Jonathan Djanogly MP's view of computerised elections as 'gimmicky'.

BBC Radio 4 - 'Click online: 15 October 2007' (23:03 > 28:10) Moderated by Simon Cox, and in the context of the 'big boys' slowly but surely abandoning DRM, Becky debates the wrongs and wrongs of DRM with Struan Robertson, a technology lawyer from Pinsent Masons.

The Telegraph - 'The day the music dies' Shane Richmond reports on the sad demise of the Virgin Digital music store, highlighting DRM's anti-consumer tendencies. ORG steps in to advise against purchasing such shoddy goods, and suggests the law should offer more protection to digital consumers.

PC Pro - 'Government ready to legislate on file-sharing' Simon Aughton assesses Government's recently stated intention that ISPs be mandated to offer technical solutions to unlawful filesharing, if a voluntary industry solution cannot be reached. ORG rejects the approach as disproportionate and technically unfeasible.

BBC Radio 4 - 'iPM: 24 October 2007' Chris Vallance interviews Cory Doctorow, famed sf author, blogger and ORG Advisory Councillor, following Lord Triesman's inflamatory comments on the possibilities of regulating infringing p2p traffic at the network level. Cory's rejection emphasises the nigh-on technical impossibility of achieving this solution.

Mini-links iPlayer Special


In no particular order: thanks to Harry for helping us with our contacts database; thanks to Fernando for sorting the Bloodspell event; thanks to Adam and Lemon for tickling our boxes; thanks to Tim for doing our cbde widget; thanks to Glyn for - pretty much - everything else. And apologies if we've missed anyone out.

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September 28, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - September 2007


  • ORG plays with the big boys

Our 'Should we trust electronic elections' conference fringe tour is now in full swing. Lib Dem conference was a rip-snorter, with the packed room and our expert panel engaging in lively, wide-ranging debate. At Labour conference we also hosted a high quality debate, and even convinced some to stray from the party line. We have audio recordings from both events for your easy listening pleasure, linked from the events page (1), and photos on the ORG flickr pool. Next up is the Conservative conference, including a Blackpool supporter meet-up the evening of Monday 1 October.

  • Government IT and software procurement

Dr John Pugh MP, a long-time open source advocate who spoke at our Lib Dem fringe, will debate 'government IT and software procurement' with Treasury ministers in the House of Commons from 12.30 - 13.00 on 9 October. If this is an issue that matters to you, write and advise your MP about this debate. Ask that they attend and report back to you on the outcome, perhaps also give them a particular question with which to contribute. Tools to help you - as ever - are available at and our 'MP letter-writing guide' (6). Also, you can watch the debate online through Parliament Live.

  • Ready or not!

Its been so hectic at ORG HQ, what with all our campaigning, that we've been slacking slightly on the house-keeping, and not checking that supporters are keeping up their payments. But we're coming for you soon! Once conference season is finished, we'll get in touch with those who have fallen behind. If your standing order or paypal subscription is not reaching us, for whatever reason, then please do sort it out because its your generous donations that keep ORG going. Just hit reply if you have any procedural concerns.

  • Consultations

We submitted to two Government consultations this month. Our response to the Cabinet Office's 'Effective Consulation' made two simple core recommendations - to publish consultation documents in open, accessible formats and to keep a centralised, standardised repository of information about consultations past and present. Our response to the Information Commissioner's Data Protection Strategy pushed for a data breach notification law in addition to stronger enforcement of the Data Protection Act, particularly against business. Our new tool, Consult, was very useful for gathering together all our comments on the consultations.

  • Nuffield DNA Report

This month the Nuffield Council on Bioethics recommended major reform of the National DNA Database, emphasising proportionality between law-enforcement benefits and ethical values such as liberty, autonomy and privacy. The headlines echo our own submission to Nuffield. We're looking forward to Government's forthcoming evaluation of the database's aged statutory foundation (the PACE Review).

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues. Unfortunately, some of our finest press moments were offline this month so we cannot share links with you.

BBC News - ORG was interviewed about Microsoft's failed appeal against an EU competition law decision. Even the lawyers couldn't wriggle out of, first, blocking interoperability and, second, denying other media player's access to market by bundling their own player with Windows. The decision is good news for consumers and business.

Government Computing magazine - 'Technology for the people' Mark Say's interview with Becky focused on the case for a 'bottom up' approach to developing public sector IT. The broad article discussed our concerns for government surveillance and e-voting, but also our positive outlook that improved availability of public sector information will empower citizens with greater engagement and raised expectations.

Music Week - 'Latest Elvis release lights the fuse on 50-year copyright time bomb' ORG was asked whether it's fair game to release Elvis' public domain catalogue. Michael had his moment of music press glory, with his comment that "Copyright is a bargain. In exchange for releasing their sound recordings, rights holders are granted exclusive control for a limited period. When this ends, the works join Shakespeare and Shelley in the public domain. As the 20th century's explosion of popular culture enters the public domain, more artists and entrepreneurs will build on these works."

Web-User - 'Govt steps into iPlayer row' Ben Camm-Jones reports on Government's response to a 16,000-strong petition demanding that iPlayer be made available on all platforms, which essentially deferred responsibility to the BBC Trust. Becky's quote continues to press for the service to be opened to users not running Windows and made accessible to all.


  • Upload, edit and share your videos. We'd appreciate your thoughts on A useful tool for ORG?

  • The Talis Community Licence has a new name, face and text. The Open Data Commons Database licence, as revised by Jordan Hatcher, is available in draft and seeks your input.


Thanks to Robin and Chad for putting us in touch with local political parties. Thanks to Adam for continuing to play with our office network. Thanks to James for completing our supporter payment app. Thanks to William and Jason's families for borrowing us their menfolk for conference season. Thanks to Harry, David, Glyn and Sheila for getting involved with Consult. Thanks to Jordan for all manner of legal expertise. And, as ever, thanks to the Board and Advisory Council for sharing their wisdom.

You have received this message because you have entered your details into the Open Rights Group database by filling in this form.

If you prefer not to be informed of ORG's activities, please email Michael.

The ORG privacy policy is online.

Thank you!

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August 31, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - August 2007


  • Electoral Commission echo ORG call for public debate on electronic elections

The Electoral Commission published their report into 2007 e-Voting pilots this month. It recommends that e-voting pilots come to a halt until a consultation into reforming policy on electronic elections has taken place: one of the key conclusions of ORG's June 2007 elections report. We'll be discussing these reports with commission representatives, elected officials and political party members in our tour of the political party conference this September.

  • Consult

Do you really and truly want to contribute to consultations but find it's a faff to make yourself heard? We've got a new way for the community to share their views: Consult. The tool makes it really easy to comment on specific parts of any document, and read what others think about them too. Please test it out and let us know how you like it. There are three ongoing consultations to get us started: the Government's 'Consultation on Consultations' (4) and then two from the Information Commissioner's Office, 'Data Protection Strategy' (5) and 'Sharing Personal Information'.

  • Public Domain Works alpha launch

Works in the public domain are simpler and cheaper to reuse than protected works, because you don't need to ask rights holders (or their lawyers!) for permission. The PD Works database (7) is a new addition to the digital artist's toolkit to help us build on the past by identifying sound recordings that are now public domain. An alpha version is running and we ask you guys to test the interface but also verify and contribute to the underlying data.

  • Brighton, Bournemouth and Blackpool: meet the ORG crew and invite your MP to our fringe event

As part of our tour of the autumn party conferences we want to meet local supporters and sympathisers. We're meeting in Brighton on Sunday 16 September at 16.00 at The Black Lion (8). We don't yet have venues for the the other towns but hope someone will suggest a suitable boozer. The plan is to meet in Bournemouth the evening of Tuesday 25 September and in Blackpool the evening of Monday 1 October. Drop us a line if you're local and want to get together. Also, if you've not yet done so, please please please invite your MP along to our fringe events - it's exactly one hundred times more effective than us asking. The event details are online (9), as are guidelines for your letters.

  • DRM

Defective by Design's hazmat squad were again out in strength this month, demonstrating against iPlayer's use of DRM at BBC HQ in White City, London. And the petition to Number Ten against the Microsoft only on-demand service closed this month, with over 16,000 signatures!

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues.

BBC News 'The Ghosts in the Voting Machine' Bill Thompson, in light of the technical evaluations of the May 2007 electoral pilots produced by ourselves and the Electoral Commission, argues for withholding trust until a technology has proven its merits.

Washington Post - 'UK report questions role of ISPs in online safety' Jeremy Kirk reports on the Lords' review of Personal Internet Security, which argues that ISPs should become responsible for online security because users fail to take effective precautions. We do not believe ISPs are best-placed to police the networks, and that increased responsibility for users actions would lead to illiberal enforcement tactics.

BBC News 'Halt e-voting says election body' The Electoral Commission ask for web and phone voting pilots to be stopped until security and testing have been improved. Despite fresh ministerial promises, we warn that successive Governments have failed to learn the lessons of trials and that future pilots should be scrapped.


The Dan Rather Reports episode 'The Trouble with Touchscreens' provides an insight into ES&S (a key e-voting vendor both here and in the US) and their US/Far East outsourcing practices

Sign up to dissent against European Commission back-pedalling on free and open standards

'Public health: Private data' is a joint event hosted by BCS Health Informatics Forum and BCS Security Forum entitled.

Channel 4 comedy I.T. Crowd shows its support for the Open Rights Group.


Thanks to Rufus and the OKFNers for leading the way with Public Domain Works, to Sheila and Glyn for getting Consult up and running, to Austin for donating more and more hardware, to Adam for continuing to work on our office network. Thanks again to Glyn for representing ORG at the Edinburgh TV Un-Conference and Podcon. Thanks to Kevin for working on the anti-DRM pamphlet. And as always, thanks to all ORG's Directors and Advisers. Extra thanks to anyone we neglected to mention.

If you prefer not to be informed of ORG's activities, please email Michael

The ORG privacy policy is online

Thank you!

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July 31, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - July 2007


  • 'Should we trust electronic elections?' - ORG @ Autumn 2007 Party Conferences

ORG will tour the 3 major English political party's conferences this Autumn, holding fringe events to spread the message that e-voting and e-counting systems are unwelcome developments in UK democracy. Ministers and representatives from the Electoral Commission have pledged to join ORG on stage for a lively debate on electronic elections. But we need your help. We need you to invite your MPs, MEPs and councillors to discuss the issue and share their views. Please write, phone, email and generally badger your political representatives into attending our events and finding out more about the issues. Full details for your invitations are listed on our website, as well as guidelines of how to get your representatives' attention.

Party conference events are restricted to holders of expensive tickets, but ORG couldn't miss this opportunity to meet up with local supporters, so we're organising meetups in Brighton, Bournemouth and Blackpool. Please get in touch if you'd like to join us, especially if you know a suitable venue. In addition, we need local volunteers to help flyer conference delegates and encourage them to join our fringe events. Please hit reply and let us know if you can help out.

  • Government declines to support term extension. Sorry, Cliff.

The powerful campaign to extend copyright protection for sound recordings has failed to convince the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (3), who have refused to lobby the European Commission for further increases in the term of right holder control. The beginning of the end for intellectual property maximalism? We hope so. Certainly this is a sea-change in government policy because requests for extension are typically granted. To reflect these weighty developments, we have updated our briefing pack and will be putting it out to partner groups in Europe for translation, in readiness for the rights holders taking their claims to the European Commission.

  • iPlayer

The BBC's iPlayer launched on 27 July. But license fee-payers not using Windows XP are so far excluded from the service, because it uses Windows-only DRM. The Open Source Consortium are threatening to take their complaint that the BBC is distorting the market in favour of Windows to European competition authorities. But the BBC could avoid this mess entirely if it listened to consumer groups and market signals, both of which indicate that DRM's days are numbered. Over 13,000 people have already signed the e-petition - if you feel strongly about the issue please add your name to theirs. Come along to one of Defective by Design's coordinated protests outside BBC offices in London and Manchester on 14 August (8). And if you feel inspired to write to your MP on the issue, ORG's submission to the BBC Trust should provide you with some good arguments to make.

  • Government consultations - tell us what to tell the Government

To ensure our submissions are well-informed and reflect your opinions, please share your views on two consultations recently added to the ORG wiki. The Information Commissioner is taking views on his 'Data Protection Strategy' - this is core ORG terittory so we know you'll give us lots to go on. In addition, the Cabinet Office is interested in how the Government can improve their approach to consultations. Their 'Effective Consultations' document contains a range of suggested policy options that we'd love to know your opinions on.

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues.

BBC Digital Planet - 'Facebook Fears' (9:20 > 18:56) Tired eyes but hungry for digital rights news? Have a listen to Becky debate the privacy concerns associated with Facebook, and how she manages her own data online to minimize these risks.

Mac User - 'Government rejects call for recording copyright extension' Fantastic news: Government backs our Release the Music campaign and the Gowers Review by denying record industry calls to extend monopoly control over culture. ORG notes that extension would give a windfall to rights holders whereas allowing recordings to enter the public domain benefits the wider economy.

Computer World UK - 'Opposition MPs warn on 'piecemeal' data protection changes' Brown's recent legislative programme includes powers that enable yet more sharing of our personal information between public authorities. We argue against tacking these powers onto miscellaneous legislation and in favour of open debate on their impact on the relationship between citizen and state.

ZDNet - 'BBC iPlayer launch on, despite crack' Despite the appearance of tools to strip iPlayer content of its newly-patched Microsoft copy protection, production companies still believe DRM can guarantee their future revenues. David Meyer is unconvinced by BBC statements that justify the use of cracked DRM in the iPlayer, launched 27 July. ORG condemns this approach, and notes the decision by EMI and Apple to drop DRM is better practice.

BBC News - 'E-voters not boosting turnout' The BBC's political research editor, David Cowling, debunks the myth that electronic elections increase turnout. ORG's call to suspend trials until the technologies are proven reliable is reported together with comments from the Electoral Commission, who are calling on Government to publish an electoral modernisation 'roadmap'.

Lots more articles listed on the ORG wiki.


  • The Office of Public Sector information and the Free Our Data campaign will set up a web channel through which the public can request public data in the form they want it. Neat-o!
  • BBC's Backstage seek your views on their new Digital Media Initiative

  • Hans Rosling is a Swedish Professor of International Health. Check this inspiring presentation on new uses for public data, and the associated need for new business models.

Thanks (A new section where we acknowledge the efforts of the kind people that help keep ORG running)

Thanks to Jason Kitcat for continuing his work on electronic elections. Thanks to Adam and Lemon for saving ORG's butt when our server flipped its lid. Adam gets double-thanks for setting up the machines in our new office. Felix and Austin get big thanks for procuring said office machinery. Thanks to the Writers Corps (especially Ryan and Richard) for answering Becky's call for copy. Thanks to Tim for hosting CC-Salon (like an old hand). Kevin deserves high praise for finding us space to host AV objects. Thanks to Jordan, Fearghas and the other Scots supporters for reminding us to always reach out beyond the M25. Hearty thanks to the Board and Advisory for sharing expertise and insights. Last but not least, thanks to Glyn for always being on-hand and on-point.

You have received this message because you have entered your details into the Open Rights Group database by filling in this form

If you prefer not to be informed of ORG's activities, please email Michael

The ORG privacy policy is online

Thank you!

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June 29, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - June 2007


  • May 2007 Election Report

We published our Elections Report this month, presenting our observations of and investigations into the 3 May elections. The report raises serious concerns regarding the use of e-voting and e-counting technologies in statutory elections and questions the government's preference for voter convenience over confidence and trust in the electoral process. It earned ORG its first mention in Parliament, and our Westminster launch event saw MPs, civil servants and all manner of politicos rub shoulders with online activists and computer security experts. Thanks to all the volunteers whose hard work and dedication made this watershed campaign possible.

  • iCommons

ORG was invited to the iCommons iSummit in Dubrovnik, Croatia this month to talk about its work to the international community of Creative Commons enthusiasts gathered there. Becky shared a stage with Cory Doctorow, Erik Josefsson of EFF Europe and Fred Beneson of Free Culture. There was great interest in the work ORG did around the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property last year, with many people asking how they could form "ORGs" back in their home countries. Larry Lessig, announcing his intention to retire as the movement's spokesperson, endorsed ORG's work in the UK.

  • Surveillance and Privacy at the House of Lords

ORG submitted a short response to the House of Lords Constitution Committee's consultation into the impact of surveillance and data collection upon the privacy of citizens and their relationship with the state. We argued that legislative safeguards against the mismanagement and misue of private data are poorly enforced.

  • IPRED 2

Becky attended the UK Intellectual Property Office's stakeholder meeting on IPRED2, an EU directive which could turn some forms of intellectual property infringement from a civil to a criminal offence. The legislation has passed the European Parliament and is now with the Council of Ministers, meaning member state governments will soon have their chance to input on the legislation. There was some consensus at the meeting that the legislation should only apply to counterfeiting and piracy, yet it was not clear what each of the participants meant by piracy, and the contentious definition of "commercial scale" infringement may well go unchallenged. We'll keep you updated as to how the negotiations progress. Its also worth following EFF Europe's Copycrime blog.

  • ORG gets real (offices)

ORG now has offices in central London! Although there is some antiquated kit knocking around, we could really use your spare hardware to form a slick office network. Please scour your dusty recesses for unused monitors, boxes or servers that would do the job, and help preserve ORG's bank balance. No doubt the community has plenty of excess hardware that could be put to better use, so please email your suggestions to

  • ORG Summer Internships

You may have noticed that Chris Adams interned with us for the last few months, bringing energy and visual flair to ORG's day-to-day functions. He's now moved on to pastures paid (leaving a significant gap in all our lives) so we're looking for more of the same. Applicants will preferably be able to work with us in central London, and the internships offer a great opportunity for anyone looking to move into the not-for-profit/campaigning sector. The work is varied - part-drudge, part-creative - but depends largely on the individual's skills. The post is voluntary and unpaid, although we will provide a per diem to cover expenses. If you'd like to take the pulse of digital rights advocacy in the UK, hit reply and attach a CV and details of availability.

Press relations Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues.

BBC - 'E-vote 'threat' to UK democracy' - Auntie amplifies the concerns expressed in ORG's elections report, leading with our warning that "British democracy could be undermined by moves to use electronic voting in elections".

The Daily Mail - 'Serious concerns that e-voting will lead to more spoilt votes' - This article reflects our damning indictment of the 'chaotic scenes' experienced at polling stations in Sheffield, Swindon and Scotland on 3 May. We particularly enjoyed the under-stated remark that 'e-voting and e-counting technologies have a poor track record'.

Guardian - 'Counting error almost gave Labour Scottish election victory' - Bobbie Johnson and David Hencke also picked up on our hot-off-the-presses report, emphasising that the deeply flawed e-counting system trialled in Scotland nearly gave power in Holyrood to Labour. Only last-minute intervention by an alert SNP candidate prevented declaration of the wrong result by poll-workers, who'd been awake for 35 hours!

The elections report did well with local press too, see the ORG wiki for reports from Sheffield, Swindon and Norfolk, as well as more coverage from New Scientist, net.wars, Slashdot, Channel 4 and The Register.

And just to show we're no one-trick pony, here's a couple of other ORG-related stories in the press: - 'Rock star says piracy battle is lost' - Dave Rowntree, recent recruit to ORG's Advisory Council, discusses major record label difficulties in the digital age. As always, he's strongly critical of DRM: "it was doomed to fail because the people who it was designed to stop ... could easily bypass it".

Guardian - 'Schools warn of abuse risk from IT database' - ORG teamed up with the Independent Schools Council, Action on Rights for Children and FIPR to publicise privacy and security concerns associated with the Contract Point database, which holds sensitive information on 11 million children in England, for the purpose of helping children's services work together. James Meikle reports the 'potentially leaky and inadequate system' needs much improvement before launch, scheduled for 2008.


  • This sitcom from Alan Partridge's production company is distributed using all kinds of gadgetery, plus its CC-licensed and is really very funny. Its call 'Where art the Joneses'.

  • Nothing but love to Tim Cowlishaw, who put together London's first CC-Salon. Last night's event was cosy, collaborative and educational. See you next time, on July 26th, as we continue to blend the arts, discussion and free culture. Be sure to get in touch if you have a project you'd like to come present.

  • The 'Guide to Open Data Licensing' is yet another great project from OKFN, aimed particularly at those who want to make their data open. Please spread the word and help others - institutions, companies, your mates - open up their data.

  • 'Can science secure our skies?' looks at the trade-off between security and civil liberties when new technologies are introduced to our airports. It will be held on July 10th at the Science Museum, and sounds right up our street.

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June 01, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - May 2007


  • ORG's recruiting! We need volunteers for the Board

It's hard to believe, but the Open Rights Group is nearly two years old! ORG's Board have started the organisation on a steady course, and now they're refreshing their ranks with new folks interested in dedicating their time to building a sustainable digital rights organisation.

So we're looking for applications to become a non-executive member of ORG's board. It's a position that requires serious dedication. But it's a position that promises significant rewards too, not least the chance to play a major part in the success of a young campaigning organisation that is already making a significant impact (if we do say so ourselves). The position is unpaid, although out-of-pocket expenses will be refunded.

If you're interested in applying, take a look at the detailed job description and hit reply with any questions. The closing date for applications is 22 June.

  • E-Voting - Observer mission accomplished; Westminster report launch 20 June-

Our volunteer election observer team went to work as planned on 3 May. Some even stayed up all night to eyeball the trials. Thanks to everyone who pitched in and thanks again for submitting in-depth reports on the procedural and technical difficulties you encountered. As you read this, Jason Kitcat is fastidiously processing all the evidence to produce our final report. It will be launched in Westminster on 20 June. If you have a spare minute, please write and invite your MP to come and learn why e-voting and e-counting do not belong in our electoral process.

  • Consultations - Deadlines fast approaching for 'surveillance state', data retention and FoI

As mentioned last month, we are preparing submissions for a number of consultations and need your opinions. The House of Lords' Constitution Committee is inquiring into how the collection and use of surveillance and other personal data affects the relationship between citizen and state. You have only a few days left to share your views.

Meanwhile, the Home Office is consulting on the implementation of the controversial Data Retention Directive. Are you affected by increased police access to communications data? Are you concerned by the associated costs to businesses, or implications for privacy? If so, register your perspective on the wiki. Also ongoing is a consultation on the Freedom of Information Act. If you object to Whitehall penny-pinching at the expense of the public interest, express yourself on the wiki.

This month, led by Alan Cox, ORG responded to the Hansard Society's 'Parliament for the Future' consultation. Our submission recommends the use of open standards as a basis for parliamentary tech projects, as well as enhanced public access to raw parliamentary data. ORG also endorsed a response, authored by a coalition of consumer and digital rights groups, to the EU's second intellectual property directive, which is well worth a read.

  • MPs ignore economics and support copyright term extension - Please write to your MP

Reports commissioned by the Treasury and the European Commission oppose term extension for sound recordings. The Gowers Review advises against extension on economic grounds - its author has even said evidence supports term reduction. Yet some MPs are unconvinced, and May saw both an Early Day Motion and a Select Committee report recommending term extension.

It is vital you write to check your MP's position on this issue. If you believe strongly that term should not be extended, ask that your MP tells Government how you feel. If you need inspiration, check out ORG's Release the Music briefing pack.

  • Tracking what's upcoming for ORGers

We've created a group on Upcoming, to help us keep track of all the dates that are important for the ORG community. Relevant dates range from conferences, public consultations and parliamentary debates on pertinent laws, to launches of DRM-laden technologies, important anniversaries and dates when recordings from high profile artists like Cliff Richard move into the public domain. That's a rough sketch of what we're looking for, but its also up to you to decide what events deserve our attention, and to help us plan for them ahead of time.

If you want to suggest an event or track our calendar, please join our upcoming group. You can also send your tip off to upcoming[at]

  • ccSalon London - 28th June 2007

ORG, together with Creative Commons and Free Culture UK is sponsoring the London ccSalon, and the first event will be held on 28 June.

The ccSalon is a monthly event focused on building a community of artists and developers around Creative Commons, and has been running with great success in San Francisco, Berlin and Johannesberg. All are welcome, especially anyone interested in Creative Commons, copyright, Free Culture, Open Source, art, media, and music.

28 June will see Tom Reynolds (Random Acts of Reality), Elizabeth Stark (Free Culture USA) and Jonathan Roberts (FreeMeDVD) take to the stage, along with DJs. There's plenty more planned for future events, and we'd love to hear from anyone interested in participating, whether by performing, exhibiting work, or giving a talk or presentation. Please email Tim Cowlishaw if this sounds like you.

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues.

The Register: 'Observers forced to 'negotiate' for evote access' Lucy Sheriff writes on our difficulties in accessing servers and other e-voting mechanisms. Jason confirms that we could not in fact observe some parts of the vote.

The New Statesman: 'Pity Poor Cliff' Sian Berry is unconvinced by calls for copyright term extension, and cites ORG's analysis of this issue. The freedoms to copy, mix and share are more valuable to the creative economy than an unreliable pension plan for a small group of artists.

Swindon Advertiser - 'Voting shambles blamed on rush' Sarah Hilley reports on the lack of adequate planning as one cause of Swindon's difficulties at the recent local elections. Local officials share her criticisms, which Jason Kitcat indicates were also felt in other pilot areas.

The Guardian - 'Google may use games to analyse net users' Bobbie Johnson and David Adam uncover the search giant's plan to compile - and then sell on to advertisers - psychological profiles based on in-game characteristics. So players who've been in session for hours on end may be targeted by delivery food services, and players who spend a lot of time nattering get mobile phone adverts. Suw Charman expresses concern that these databases could be appropriated for less benevolent purposes.

More ORG-flavoured articles listed on our wiki.


  • 6 June: Amnesty event to discuss the struggle against internet repression and celebrate freedom of expression. Features Cory Doctorow, Jimmy Wales, Kevin Anderson, Richard Stallman and many others.

  • Keep your eye out for news about LUGRadio Live 2007, taking place this July - Becky will be there talking about ORG, and our very own Alan Cox is headlining, along with Chris diBona (Google) and Nat Friedman (Novell).

  • Ever have trouble explaining copyright? This video mashup does it better than most.

The ORG privacy policy is online at

Thank you!

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May 15, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - April 2007


  • Election Watch 2007 - Ready to roll!

We announced our official 'Observer' accreditation from the Electoral Commission last week, as well as clearance to observe server hosting locations for Swindon, Rushmoor, Shrewsbury and Sheffield. Best of luck to our 25-strong volunteer mission who will be on the ground - sporting some very nice, bespoke ORG T-Shirts (see below) - this week.

Also, plans for more e-voting events later this year are taking shape. There will be a Westminster date in June to launch our technical evaluation of the trials, as well as 3 separate events at the Party Conferences in September. If anyone can help us locate conference facilities in Brighton, Bournemouth or Blackpool, or indeed wants to volunteer to lend a hand when we come to town, just hit reply and get involved.

  • Support ORG - buy our goodies!

If you came to our party this month you will have seen Glyn sporting our fabulous new ORG T-Shirt. The full range - including (as suggested by you) bigger logos, black Ts and lady sizes - is now available at our online merch shop. Each purchase from the shop includes a modest (£5 or under) contribution to our war-chest. Besides these fine togs you can also buy ORG mugs and mousemats, so you can impress your place of work with your good taste and philanthropy. As always if you have suggestions to expand or improve the range, just hit reply and let us know.

  • Consultations - Please help us help the government help us all

We are working towards submissions for various government consultations. The Home Office need our help to implement the EU Data Retention Directive, which obliges public communications providers to keep records of our phone calls and other communications. If you are concerned about the privacy implications of this Directive, or about onerous burdens imposed on business, please jot your thoughts onto the wiki. Also, the Dept. for Constitutional Affairs are trying to emasculate the Freedom of Information Act. If you think government should be more concerned with accountability than saving the blushes of MPs and civil servants (under the pretence of saving a few quid), then vent on the wiki. Next comes the House of Lords' Consitutition Committee's inquiry into 'the impact of surveillance and data collection upon the privacy of citizens and their relationship with the state'. In addition, we have wiki-pages for Home Office reviews of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (perhaps relevant in terms of increasing use of DNA / fingerprinting databases) and child pornography laws (perhaps relevant in terms of computer-generated pictures).

  • ccSalon London - Call for Performers

Free Culture UK and the Open Rights Group plan to hold a monthly ccSalon event in London, starting in June. CC Salon is a monthly event focused on building a community of artists and developers around Creative Commons licenses, standards, and technology. Salons are already established in San Francisco, Johannesburg and Berlin. All are invited, especially those interested in Creative Commons, Free Culture and the application of Open Source concepts to Art, Media, and Music.

We need visual artists, musicians and anyone else who publishes works under an open license. We also need people whose cultural practice involves appropriation, quotation, remixing, sampling, collage (i.e. reuse / recycling). If you'd like to exhibit, perform, or otherwise take part in this event, please email for details. Tim also wants sponsors and practical assistance for running the event, so drop him a line if this sounds like you.

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues.

The Guardian - 'Council poll monitors fear e-vote fraud' David Hencke criticises legislation which rather confounds our e-voting mission, by neglecting to guarantee access to council servers and e-voting centres. Jason laments that although "all of them have agreed in principle that we can come ... we are relying on grace and favour agreements on where we can go."

International Herald Tribune - 'France to choose president with help of electronic voting' Thomas Crampton reports on the use of e-voting across Europe and the globe, despite the technology's technical and usability shortcomings. Jason is quoted on a number of points, including the propensity for simple human error to skew and invalidate election results and the government's apparent lack of concern for solving security failings in the democratic process.

The Guardian - 'Expanding Networks' Megan Griffith sees opportunities for voluntary groups to expand into the online domain, where marginal communities can take advantage of the fluid, participative culture to avoid hierarchical coordination in order to grow extraordinarily quickly. The Open Rights Group (and the US-based Genocide Intervention Network) are given as exemplar of these processes!

New Statesman - 'Righting Digital Wrongs' Mike Butcher blogs on the Open Rights Group's nomination in the Advocacy category at this year's New Statesman New Media awards. He likes our our grassroots legitimacy in particular, and says we punch well above our weight. Follow the link to add your glowing comments to our nomination.

The Times - 'E-votes put wrong name next to the Labour rose' Sam Coates reports on a human-error in the Rushmoor (Hampshire) internet voting experiment that threatened to invalidate the election by displaying a Conservative candidate's name next to a Labour rose. The story also notes our efforts to raise awareness of the trials' vulnerability to crackers.


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April 25, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - March 2007


  • Election Watch 2007 going strong - more volunteers needed

The response to our call for volunteer election observers has been fantastic - we've already got five of the eleven e-voting pilot areas covered. But we still need more, and it's not (quite) too late to put yourself forward. If you live in or around one of the pilot areas (or are willing to travel there) and you’d like to help out, please let us know by signing up to our location-specific pledge. And if you have volunteered already, please send us your completed registration packs soon so we can accredit you with the Electoral Commission.

You'll receive full instructions on what will be expected of you on the day, as well as evaluation criteria tailored for the different trials. We’ll expect you to travel around the pilot area during the day, and to turnaround a quick report for us afterwards. And the good news is, we've just received a grant of £24,000 from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, to help towards our e-voting campaign. Part of this money will go towards funding presentations on e-voting to each of the major party conferences in the Autumn - which will help us make sure the information we gather during the missions reaches the right people. Thanks, JRRT!

If you missed our February e-voting events, take a tour of our ever-growing e-voting minisite, which now includes videos of the UCL lectures and panel discussions.

  • Support ORG! (and Party) (...and Raffle!)

Our first proper party will be a chance for ORG supporters to meet each other, to chat to volunteers and staff and celebrate how far we’ve all come since ORG started. There’ll be 'open culture' DJs (think public domain records + mash-ups, versions and remixes galore), CC visuals and goodie bags (music, software, merch and discount vouchers), as well as special guest appearances from Danny O’Brien and Dave Rowntree. We need you to spread the word about the party, and help boost the ranks of ORG supporters. It starts at 6pm on Wednesday 11 April at Bar Kick, E1, and lasts until 11pm. Please sign up via Eventbrite.

Prizes for the raffle include Neil Gaiman’s (signed) keyboard, signed copies of Bruce Schneier’s Beyond Fear, Lessig's Code v2, and the Gowers Review, £150 of O'Reilly book vouchers, a set of a dozen Beatpick compilations and a couple of extra special Doctorow donations: a signed author’s galley of his next novel, Little Brother (forthcoming in 2008), and the opportunity to be written into it! We’ll make the draw on the night of 11 April. All advance purchases (we’ll close the Paypal interface an hour or two before the party) will be assigned a paper ticket, then added together with tickets sold on the night. Advance raffle tickets are £2.50 through Paypal.

  • DRM - your digital rights don't need managing

The battle to discredit and marginalise DRM continues with Becky and the IFPI debating the issue on BBC Click - well worth watching her in action. Also, our volunteers and advisers are drafting a short, plain-English guide to the technical reasons why DRM is doomed, to be presented to recording industry bodies. We all know DRM is no basis for a business model, hopefully we can help the record execs see the light.

  • Consultation fever!

This month we made contributions to no less than three public consultations, and began work on another two. Our work on the BBC's iPlayer consultation was led by the Advisory Council - thanks to all contributors but especially Alan Cox (and his wife!). We also endorsed the excellent work by Ross Anderson and colleagues at the Foundation for Information Policy Research on the NHS' centralised electronic patient records. And in conjunction with the Open Knowledge Foundation and Free Culture UK, we submitted to Ofcom's thoroughly progressive Public Service Provider consultation document.

If you want to help our consultation responses, we'll be considering the UK transposition of European data retention laws and also the 'Surveillance Society' in the next month or so. Just reply to this email to indicate your interest.

Events 7th UK Network Operators Forum: 3 April (Manchester). An open forum for operational, technical and engineering information exchange related to backbone networking technologies and practices.

ORG Volunteers meeting: 4 April (London). Come and find out how you can help with ORG's ongoing activities.

MiniBar: 20 April (London). A social evening in East London - organised by Open Business - which offers a chance to snaffle some free beer while discussing p2p, Creative Commons, web applications, social networking and general Web 2.0 mayhem & fandango. Computers, Freedom, and Privacy: 1-4 May (Montreal, Canada). Debate the future of computing, privacy and freedom in the online world with key representatives from government, business, education and non-profits; including the legal, law enforcement, security, media, consumer and hacker communities.

Press We jump at every chance to talk to the media and connect them with experts on issues that matter to our supporters. These are some examples of our influence this month.

Evening Standard, Andrew Gilligan: 'E-Vote security fears are being ignored' The current trial of insecure voting technologies is driven by the economic interests of vendors, and ignores expert academic advice by proceeding without proper safeguards. Our e-voting co-ordinator, Jason Kitcat, notes that hacking these machines is a trivial exercise.

Register, Lucy Sherriff: 'Dutch FOI disclosures reveal the odd business of evoting' A programmer associated with the discredited Nedap vendor seems to think he's in charge of how Dutch citizens cast their vote. Jason Kitcat comments that despite this 'very worrying' revelation, the Dutch government - following the October 2006 TV broadcast of the Gonggrijp hack - are now engaged in proper scrutiny. Would a similar exercise be useful over here?

Guardian, Roy Greenslade: 'Changing Media Summit - The wrongs of rights' Brief but nicely weighted piece reporting the perspectives of different interest groups in the DRM debate. Ian Brown, of our Advisory Council, points out that record executives accept sales are inhibited by DRM, and that unprotected formats are the future for digital distribution of music.

See more of our press coverage in March on the wiki


  • What's going to go wrong in our e-enabled world? The Blindside blog and wiki is your place to share evidence, insights and concerns about the technical and social risks of the information age. From Kable and the team behind Ideal Government.

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