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Supporter Newsletter


May 30, 2008 | Mike Little

Supporters update - September 2005

(First Beta Edition - Do Not Use On Children or The Elderly)

Welcome to the latest Open Rights Group supporters update email.

Pledge now stands at 865 founding members: http://www.pledgebank.com/rights

News

  • Boring AdministriviaDull technicalities such as arranging a bank account, free office space, a budget and grant applications continue apace. After several press inquiries addressed to "your digital rights thing", a name was chosen: the OPEN RIGHTS GROUP. Acclaimed as "okay", it served its principal purpose, which was to delay incorporation while the Secretary of State personally checks whether we are, technically, a "group": a special term, it turns out, in company law. No, we're not joking. Explanation of what ORG will do: http://www.guardian.co.uk/online/story/0,3605,1537039,00.html
  • URGENT DATA RETENTION ACTION NEEDED BY THURSDAY 2005-09-22
  • You don't need us to tell you that the mandatory retention of data about every EU citizen's calls, mobile phone movements, and internet usage would be a bad thing (if you do, check http://www.edri.org/docs/lettertoUKpres.pdf for a joint letter from EDRi and Privacy International to the Council of Ministers on the problems with data retention).

    But it's happening anyway: the EU Commission just published their proposal to do just that: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2005/sep/com-data-retention-prop.pdf

    And there's a live streaming press conference with Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Franco Frattini on the 'retention of data and the radicalisation and recruitment of terrorists' today (Wednesday 21 Sept) at 12.15pm.

    http://europa.eu.int/comm/ebs/schedule.cfm

    One of the key EU institutions considering their position on this proposal is the ARTICLE 29 WORKING GROUP: that's all of the Information Commissioners (data protection registrars) in the EU, acting as one.

    Word has it that many of the Article 29 Working Group want to fight data retention.

    But the UK Information Commissioner says he can't join the fight because he doesn't feel that he can publically stand against the UK government's recent paper "Liberty and Security: Striking the Right Balance".

    http://www.edri.org/docs/UKpresidencypaper.pdf

    Short summary: it has a CCTV picture of the London Bombers on the front page. Says civil liberties are nice and all but, woo, terrorism.

    Longer summary (from the excellent Privacy International coverage): http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd[347]=x-347-346410

    EDRi has produced a short analysis of the paper, which finds that none of the examples used by the UK government would justify their data retention proposals:

    http://www.edri.org/node/view/679

    The latest draft of the EU's data retention plans have already excised the Article 29 working group from overseeing what sort of data gets retained.

    The group want to fight, but the UK commissioner is reticent.

    You can get them fighting back. Tell your Info Commissioner to stand up for your rights.

    IF YOU HAVE TWO MINUTES:

    Visit http://www.dataretentionisnosolution.com and sign European Digital Rights (EDRi)'s Europe-wide petition. EDRi is working hard at the EU level to alert politicians to the issues with data retention; the petition helps it demonstrate the size of the constituency it represents and will help boost Article 29's confidence.

    IF YOU HAVE TWENTY MINUTES:

    The UK Information Commissioner doesn't answer to the government: he answers to Parliament, and from them, to you. His mission (should he choose to accept it) includes: "protecting your personal information".

    For that he doesn't need the government's backing: he needs yours.

    1. Write to your MP, and tell him or her that you want the UK Information Commissioner to speak in the EU on your behalf against data retention. Use http://www.writetothem.com/

    2. When you're done, copy and paste your message to the Commissioner's office email at: mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk If you like, cc: us at suw.charman+ico@gmail.com.

    (You may want to check http://www.openrightsgroup.org/ before you send that second mail. We want the information commissioner to know we support him, but don't want to spam him to death. If he complains, we'll put up a sign.)

    3. Forward this mail. Feel free to cut out everything but this plea. But make sure you include the expiry date: THURSDAY 2005-09-22.

    Here's some points you could mention in your letter to your MP:

    * Ask your MP to tell the Information Commissioner to speak for you, not the British government. Your right to have your personal data protected will outlast the current incumbents and must be assured by the appropriate legislation.

    * The Commissioner has previously commented on both the expense of and lack of need for data retention. Ask your MP to ask that he fully and thoroughly investigate any data retention plans before rolling them out across Europe. Try not to mention "45 minute claims": it makes MPs uncomfortable and sweaty.

    * The "Liberty and Security" paper published by the government actually only asks for "internet logins and logouts". The EU proposal also demands the To: and From: of emails. Tell your MP that even if the Commissioner is beholden to the government's stance, he should agree to no more than the minimum amount of data requested.

    Be polite; be pursuasive: we want him on our side.

    But most of all, be prompt. The Article 29 Working Group meets Thursday and Friday of this week.

    We'll let you know how you get on. Remember, 850 people have your back.

  • Free Culture UK - Grassroots Action for The Public DomainFree Culture UK is a grassroots organisation that campaigns for key creative freedoms: a vibrant public domain, open formats, and free licenses. On October 1st, they're meeting up for their first Congress to set their agenda for the next year. If you're near London, you should pop along. If you're not, FC-UK has local groups in Birmingham, Brighton, Deptford, Exeter, Leeds and Reading - and can advise you on how to start your own.http://www.freeculture.org.uk/wiki/MeetingMinutes/2005-Congress
  • Open GeoData Campaign Gets a MonkeyItching to chuck a fiver before the Open Rights Group pledge matures? The Pledge to support open access to state-collected geospatial data matured last week. They're collecting names to make sure that when you get tax-funded maps, you *really* get them: free for use and redistribution. And they're not sitting on their backsides waiting either: the OPENSTREETMAP project is creating a body of free data collected from geohackers all over the world. The pledge should earn them 500UKP, but a few more fivers wouldn't go amiss:See what they've done: http://openstreetmap.org/ Find out why they're doing it: http://okfn.org/geo/manifesto.php Paypal fivers or offers of help to: steve@fractalus.com
Other

Are you doing something that defends or extends digital rights? Want more people to know about it? Worried about an issue that no-one has spotted yet? Tell us via the comments section.

Groups mentioned:

http://privacyinternational.org/ - 15 years fighting for privacy http://www.edri.org/about/sponsoring - 21 orgs, 14 countries http://openstreetmap.org/ - the free wiki world map http://www.freeculture.org.uk/ - grassroots for an open culture http://www.openrightsgroup.org/ - because your rights are reserved

[Read more]


April 30, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporter update - April 2008

News

  1. ORG is hiring
  2. We're looking for an experienced and committed digital rights campaigner to work on issues around copyright reform and infringement, taking the concerns of ORG and its supporters to Europe and beyond. The job description includes full details of the role, the particular issues involved and how to apply. Note that the deadline for applications is Sunday 11 May and interviews will take place 14 - 16 May. We could not have timed this better with the European Parliament showing sympathy for digital rights concerns twice in the past month, first by rejecting the "three strikes" enforment system and then voting against criminalisation of file-sharing. For more on the unfolding "three strikes" saga, see mini-links below.

  3. ElectionWatch '08
  4. ORG's election observers (class of 2008) are in the final stages of preparing to monitor the e-counted aspects of the London elections. Last year, after chaotic scenes in polling stations and count centres, ORG wrote a highly critical report of the e-voting and e-counting pilots, and the Electoral Commission called for a halt to e-voting and e-counting in the UK. Just under 30 officially accredited ORG observers will be scrutinising the e-count this year.

  5. Newsblog
  6. We now have a blog devoted to digital rights stories. Thanks to our diligent and news-hungry volunteers, the posts are coming out thick and fast, ranging from the Earl of Errol's musing on data breaches to the PR-gaff-of-the-month from Virgin Media's CEO. If you have a suggestion for a story then please submit it by email to newsbloggers at openrightsgroup dot org so our collective of authors can consider it for postage. Or you can point us to your story with the 'openrightsgroup' tag on del.icio.us. And if you'd like to help out by blogging for ORG then hit reply and let us know.

  7. Consultations
  8. The role of public service broadcasting is up for review as Ofcom ask for input on how to adapt the PSB funding model to keep up with the Internet. As usual, we want your help with our submission through either orgwiki or Consult, so please please please have a read of the consultation materials and get involved. Also, earlier this month, we submitted to the UK-IPO's consultation on (Gowers') exceptions to copyright, emphasising the need for a user-friendly private copying exception and a right to parody as well as calling for fresh analysis of the transformative works issue. Read the submission in full on orgwiki (6) or in PDF. PS Rumours abound that Consult will be seconded to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

  9. Volunteer meeting
  10. April's volunteer meeting was a reflective affair involving updates of ongoing works and a discussion of ideas for future fundraising and corporate engagement. Thanks especially to the new faces who joined our regular crew. Next up is Thursday 15 May, please indicate on the wiki if you want to join us.

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 media coverage of Phorm became even more hostile after BT admitted 'spying' on thousands of its broadband customers. This story reports our view that the behavioural advertising system was potentially illegal, based on excellent analysis by two of the ORG advisory council, Nicholas Bohm and Richard Clayton, wearing their Foundation for Information Policy Research millinery.

ORG joined Statewatch, Privacy International and 40 other campaign bodies from around Europe to support Ireland's case against the Data Retention Directive. The law, which requires telecommunications companies to keep records of customers' communications for up to two years, should be rejected because it breaches our fundamental human rights of privacy and freedom of expression.

    Blogs and news sites around the world picked up on our report of this month's watershed moment, when the European Parliament rejected Internet filtering and draconian anti-piracy measures. In particular, our comment that the vote "signifies resistance among MEPs to measures currently being implemented in France to disconnect suspected illicit filesharers" was used again and again.

Drew Wilson posted on our latest call for a private copyright exception, which argued for a broad right that matched consumer's expectations for the music they buy. The post links our arguments with concerns recently expressed by William Patry, an eminent US copyright theorist, who rejected the view that any private copying exception should be narrowly defined and compensated by a levy on the sale of blank media devices.

Commenting on our scrutiny of the electronic count for this week's London elections, we argue that using computers in this context frustrates transparency and independent oversight. The piece goes on to cite a new report that these technologies increase costs and further undermine confidence in the electoral process yet do not increase voter turnout

Events The very best way to stay updated on ORG-esque events is with our Upcoming group. Here's some some particularly exciting events happening in the next month or so:

UKNOF10 takes place in Wolverhampton on 21 May - "The United Kingdom Network Operators' Forum (UKNOF) acts as an open forum for operational, technical and engineering information exchange related to backbone networking technologies and practices."

The 18th Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference takes place in New Haven, CT, USA on 20 - 23 May

Mini-links: "Three strikes" reportage

Thanks

Thanks to everyone who joined the volunteer meeting this month: Mark, Chris, Chris, Frederik, Anon., Adam, Glyn, Rowan, Harry, Robin, Howard, Raph, Dynamo_Ace and Elliotjhug. Thanks to the 2008 Observers: Glyn, Stef, Suw, Robin, Gervase, Lucy, Rona, Daryl, Ian, Ben, Alex, Alex, Taylor, Adrian, Loretta, Caroline, James, Louise, Harry, Felix, Jonathan, AJ, Dave, Susanne, James and Chris. Thanks to the newsbloggers: Glyn, Harry and Mark. Thanks to Jordan and Lilian for working on the next big thing. Ta very much to the Board and Advisory Council. And last of all, thanks to Becky, who runs this show. Oh, and thanks to anyone i neglected.

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March 31, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporters update - March 2008

Welcome to the latest Open Rights Group supporters update email.

News

  • 10,000 people tell Europe: keep copyright sound!
  • More than 10,000 people from all over Europe have signed our petition asking policy-makers to keep copyright sound. Thanks to everyone who made their voices heard. We're now moving into the second phase of our campaign, writing letters to European Commissioners to point them to the evidence that says term extension is a bad idea for our creative future. Our first letter, to Viviane Reding, Commissioner for the Information Society, was signed by representatives from the National Consumer Council, the Green Party (England and Wales), Knowledge Ecology International and the Adelphi Charter. If you represent a group who has a stake in sound copyright - maybe you're an archivist, a documentary film-maker or remix artist - please think about forming your own coalition to write letters to European legislators letting them know your stake in sound copyright.

  • Phorm storm brewing
  • The story that BT, Virgin and TalkTalk are signed up to trial a new technology called Phorm, which tracks users' online habits in order to serve targeted ads, has caused a storm all over the internet this month. The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) say the system is likely to be illegal under laws which govern the interception of communications in the UK. ORG went along to meet Phorm, to find out how their systems work. The result will be a series of detailed blog posts by Richard Clayton, ORG Advisory Council member and FIPR representative. If you're concerned about the implications of Phorm for your privacy, keep your eyes on the ORG blog, or subscribe to our RSS feed for information about actions you can take to protect your privacy online.

  • The creative community gets down to business
  • We were overwhelmed with applications to attend our Creative Business seminars, which explore how the creative industries are using the Internet to innovate, and the three sessions we held this month didn't disappoint. All three of our case-study digital entreprenurs turned up to answer questions from the audience. For a detailed report, with links to reusable course materials and photos from the seminars, visit the Creative Business blog. Audio recordings to follow shortly.

  • Don't hack my vote redux: London's e-count
  • Our scrutiny of the May 2007 elections caused public outcry and questions in the House of Lords concerning the use of insecure voting systems. Thanks to everyone who answered our call to officially observe the e-count of the London elections this year. We're now registering our observer team with the Electoral Commission, ahead of the elections in May. Why are we worried about e-voting and e-counting? Read our briefing pack to find out.

  • Next volunteer meeting: Thursday 3 April
  • Our next volunteer meeting, where you guys get up close and involved with our daily grind, will be held at 18.30 on Thursday 3 April. Physical location will be - as usual - central London but we'll have the IRC channel running so everyone can join in. Let us know via the wiki page if you can come. The meeting should run for an hour or so and be closely followed by a friendly glass of ale.

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.

Mini-links: mySociety special

ORG wouldn't exist without mySociety's Pledgebank, so this month we dedicate our mini-links to them. The civic hackers have recently launched two excellent new sites. And what's this, a mySociety campaign?

Thanks

Cheers this month to Chris M and Chris A, Marc, Felix, Matthew, Erik, Mandy, Polly and Lydia for helping out at our Creative Business seminars; Sheila and Mike for class work on the website; Rachel for the webstats; Adam for the office network, chocolates and lots of other bits and bobs; Lemon for all-round brilliance; Chris M (again) and James C for development work; Board and Advisory Council for precision guidance and hearty encouragement; all who commented on our Phorm posts; Glyn for the chugging frenzy as well as everything else; all the election observers who got their applications in on time; Owen for the proofing; Wendy, Fernando, Owen (again) and Jordan for their help on the Gowers exceptions consultation; Lilian for helping shape our new net censorship project; Danny and the EFF massive for their continued work on soundcopyright.eu, Gianluca and Vincenzo and the p2p Forum Italia community for the Italian translation (coming soon!); and... you for supporting our work.

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February 29, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporters update - February 2008

Welcome to the latest Open Rights Group supporters update

News

  • Term extension: sign the European petition today
  • The record company's lobbyists failed to convince Andrew Gowers and the UK government to increase their monopoly powers in 2006. So they jumped on the Eurostar to Brussels and set to work on the European Commissioners, where, despite a lack of evidence for their plea, they had considerably more success. Ever alert to the call to action, we are back on the case of the term-extenders with the brand new Sound Copyright campaign website, jointly developed with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Please sign our petition, write to your MP and spread the word to help regenerate the campaign against extension. This last bit - where you spread the word - is really, really important: by acting early and decisively we hope to stop this proposal before it builds momentum.

  • Open-IP: Creative Business seminars are fully subscribed
  • Public reaction to our Creative Business seminars, which explore how the creative industries are using the Internet to innovate, has been really encouraging. The applicants come from a broad cross-section of creative enterprises and seem excited by our blend of open theory and practice. The seminars themselves take place in March so we will link to both the CC-licensed course materials as well as audio recordings from the sessions in the next update. In the meantime, keep using the project's blog (6) and wiki where you can both read and contribute to our research.

  • Volunteer activities
  • The February volunteer meeting was another cracker. We plotted our copyright term campaign, the Barcamp Brighton ORG hack and a range of other endeavours. So a big thanks to all the guys and girls who joined us, especially the new faces and those who agreed to forge on with their alloted tasks. The next meeting will be in 6 weeks time, on Thursday 3 April.

  • Consultations
  • Ignoring the onset of consultation fatigue, we submitted to two inquiries this month. On the 'data-sharing' review (10), we urged the government to find more imaginative ways to meet the challenge digital technologies pose to our privacy. And on the European Commission's 'content online' consultation, we said "no" to DRM, "no" to 3 strikes and you're out and "hmmm, interesting" to multi-territory licensing. Following a cordial meeting with the UK Intellectual Property Office, we are working together with a group of academics and veteran activists towards out submission to the copyright exceptions consultation and would love more ideas and comments from the community at the usual place.

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. A comprehensive list of ORG's appearances in the press is available on the wiki.

  • The Times - 'New lease of life for ageing rock stars'
  • Dan Sabbagh reports on the proposals to introduce copyright term by EU Internal Market chieftain, Charlie McCreevy. The Open Rights Group were on hand to point out that "a handful of artists will get most of the rewards, and it is not clear this will benefit the economy." The article also notes this extension would tax the music-buying public for the benefit of everybody's favourite hard-lobbying special interest group, the record industry rights holders.

  • The Observer - 'MPs must thwart the dark plans of the state'
  • Henry Porter, a bastion of common sense, wrote this thorough rebuttal of the call for a national, mandatory DNA database. This broad and historical perspective is well worth a read, not least because he references an ORG-endorsed report that "paints a horrific picture of the intensive surveillance of our children who are being conditioned to tolerate the collection of biometric data".

  • IP Watch - 'European Commission seeks copyright extension, new levy debate'
  • Dugie Stanford's thoughtful article also covers the rehashed proposals to extend copyright for sound recordings. The argument this time is based on giving perfomers parity with composers. We say this comparison is an "emotive argument" that ignores the fact that this debate has already been settled on evidence-based grounds by the Hugenholz and Gowers reviews.

  • BBC - 'Rights attack on smart card plan'
  • Moves to introduce a smart card are afoot at the Welsh Assembly Government, aiming to improve user experience of public services like library and travel. Both ORG and No2ID reject the scheme because it is devoid of real public benefit and takes us another step closer to a national ID card scheme.

  • BBC - '3 strikes and you're out'
  • Becky spoke on Radio 4's World at One about leaked proposals to bring France's project to withdraw the internet connection of people suspected of illicitly sharing copyright material online. She pointed out that such proposals are both disproportionate and technically infeasible. No audio is available, but you can read an excerpt of interview on the ORG website.

Mini-links Upcoming special

The very best way to stay updated on ORG-ish events is with our Upcoming group. Here's links to some particularly exciting events happening in the next month or so:

  • OK (Open Knowledge) Con, 15 March
  • "The event will bring together individuals and groups from across the open knowledge spectrum for a day of seminars and workshops around the theme of 'Applications, Tools and Services'."

  • BarCamp Brighton, 15 March
  • An unconference to be held at Sussex University; use their wiki for ticket information, sign-up and to start participating.

  • Musicians, fans and online copyright, 19 March
  • "Is home downloading killing music? Should Internet Service Providers monitor customers to try and spot copyright infringement, and disconnect downloaders? Do musicians need new laws to benefit from the opportunities of the Internet?"

  • Social Innovation Camp, 4 April
  • "What happens when you get a bunch of hackers and social innovators together, give them a set of social problems and only 48 hours to solve them?"

Thanks

Thanks to Jordan, Fernando, Owen and Wendy for taking on the copyright exceptions consultation. Thanks also to Jordan for laying the groundwork on a yet-to-be-named and in-the-works project. And thanks again to Owen for dotting our I's and crossing our T's. Thanks to Danny for getting the Sound Copyright website online quicker than we could say 'widget'. Thanks to Adam for continuing to fettle with our office network. Thanks in advance to James, who maybe helping us out with an upgrade to said office network. Thanks to everyone who participated in this month's volunteer meeting: Chris, Adam, Dot, Sheila, Matthew, Gianluca, Dynamo, Felix, Joss and Glyn. Thanks to Chris and Felix for birthing ORG's 1st widget. An extra special thanks to Glyn and Sheila for giving Michael some much-needed computing lessons. Thanks to Tom, John, Rob and David for agreeing to field questions at this month's Creative Biz seminars. Thanks to Rachel for the webstats and transmedia attitude. Thanks to Paul for sharing his knowledge of the inner-working of the music biz. Thanks to Owen, Cédric, Christoph, Richard and Wendy for helping out with translations for Sound Copyright. And thanks to the Board and Advisory for patronising - in the nicest way - our works.

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February 07, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporters update - January 2008

Welcome to the latest Open Rights Group supporters update

News

  • Open for (Creative) Business

    The Creative Business in the Digital Era seminars are go! The seminars - aimed at creatives and those working in the creative industries - will present and discuss ORG's research into open IP, business models, distribution mechanisms and social media. They will be held in central London on 17 (full day), 18 (evening) and 19 (evening) March. You can read more on the blog or go straight to download the application pack. And if you are active in free culture, then please do get involved on the wiki. Also, as mentioned elsewhere, we will make audio recordings of the seminars and all the other course materials available under CC licenses.

  • Devote your Day to Democracy #2: London's 2008 Mayoral and Assembly elections

    Our scrutiny of the May 2007 elections caused public outcry and questions in the House of Lords concerning the use of insecure voting systems. This May, as London votes for a new Mayor and Assembly, ORG will reprise its role as Election Observer. We already have a green light from the Electoral Commission, as well as an accomodating electoral administrator in London Elects and pledges from a team of techno-literate volunteers to watch over proceedings. Read more on why electronic voting and electronic counting are unsuitable for use in democratic elections in our briefing pack and elections report.

  • Consultations

    The new year brought a large stack of consultation documents into the ORG office. We really do need help to respond to these important inquiries. The most promising of the stack involves new exceptions to copyright. We are fine-tuning our arguments for format-shifting and other benefits for users but need your evidence and experience, so please read and consider via Consult . Far more sinister is the Creative Content Online inquiry that includes questions on DRM and multi-territory rights licensing - the EC is infamous for ropey copyright legislation so our pro-consumer perspective will be vital here. We are also drafting a response to the Data Sharing Review and would appreciate input on, in particular, public authorities that hold too much data. And - phew - we have just submitted a brief response to the 'extending freedom of information consultation'. We argued for the burgeoning culture of open government and against commercial confidentiality in public services (9).

  • Volunteers: cracking January meet

    We had a great volunteer meeting with a lot of new and enthusiastic participants. So thanks to everyone who came along and put their name down for tasks, many of which are already sorted. Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 27 February and will be held as per usual both in central London and on IRC. Please put your name onto the wiki if you intend to come and we'll be in touch closer to the time with an agenda.

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.

Computer Active - 'ID cards to arrive in 2012' Andrea-Marie Vassou reports on a Government leak that although foreign nationals will receive ID cards this year, the mass roll-out has been delayed by two years. Two ORG voices are quoted separately as attributing the delay to Government's recent display of incompetence in handling personal data.

Out-Law - 'Commission consultation: the need for pan-European copyright licenses' The European Commission wants to simplify life for media businesses' offering creative content by encouraging multi-territory licenses and interoperable DRM systems. ORG however looked closely at the consultation and found a number of consumer-unfriendly proposals, including a possible back door to extending copyright term and the introduction of obligations on ISPs to discourage illegal p2p file-sharing.

Mini-links

  • Gov 2.0 or Truly Transformative Government - a conference organised for Parliament by the Oxford Internet Institute - featuring inspirational presentations by Tom Steinberg (MySociety), Ross Anderson (FIPR) and William Heath (Ideal Government). And its archived here.

  • The 'Mind the Gap' competition invites contributions for better designed and more user-friendly public services. Please crank your imaginations up and get into it. You may even win a prize or two.

  • "Support artists not multinationals" is the motto of the "I wouldn't steal" initiative, which opposes the content industry's criminalisation of the online sharing culture. They argue that sharing is expanding rather than killing culture and that consumers will pay for culture online if offered good quality at a fair price.

  • And somewhere inside Parliament, the Hansard Prototype Group are coding to make Westminster's records more accessible...

Thanks

Thanks to all the volunteers who came to our meeting (Glyn, Matthew, Chris, Felix, Chris, Suw, Sheila, Rachel, Richard, Tom and Harry). Thanks to the pledgers who've signed up to be our 2008 Elections Observers (Suw, Glyn, James C, Caroline, Ben, Alison, Robin, Stef, James, Gervase, Rory, Harry, Louise, Ian, Nico, Daryl, Alex, Jonathan, James Cox, Taylor and Alex). Thanks to those helping with the 'exceptions' consultation (Fernando, Lilian, Jordan, David, Owen, Wendy and Suw). Thanks to the coders who are helping with our databases (Chris, Sam, James, John, Lemon and Adam) And thanks to the Board and Advisory for being frightfully useful in all manner of ways. Thanks to everyone I forget but pitched in this month.

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January 03, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Supporters Update - December 2007

News

  • Write to your MP today: stop the privacy timebomb

Despite the near-constant flow of personal data leaking from various Government (and private sector) organs, ministers and civil servants fail to appreciate that centralised databases present fundamental difficulties. We have gathered resources that help you contact your MP to question the appalling practices and associated culture of disregard for personal privacy. There's a dynamite blogpost and extensive wiki pages for your use. As ever, please document your communications with elected representatives on the wiki or blog because personal stories will encourage others to get involved. My MP has not responded to my letter so my next step is to ask them in person at a constituency surgery.

  • Gentle prod to annual supporters: escape ignominy and harassment by remembering your yearly donations

Most of you are great at remembering when your annual donation is due to ORG. But unfortunately there are some bad apples. If your annual donation is not in our PayPal or bank account in the expected month then rest assured our merciless drones shall be dispatched to collect it, placing your lavish lifestyle and loved ones at unnecessary risk. So please, do the right thing: Support ORG (and protect your bits).

  • Consultations on Data Sharing and extending the scope of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act

We will produce two consultation submissions in the next six weeks and ask that you help enlighten our responses. The Data Sharing Review concerns the use and sharing of personal information and includes questions about whether the Information Commissioner should have greater enforcement powers. We have both a wiki page and a Consult page to structure your engagement. In the same vein of encouraging transparency, scrutiny and accountability, our other current consultation asks how to oblige private sector organisations that deliver public services with FoI regulations. Again, there's both a wiki page and a Consult page to encourage your engagement. These consultations were announced a few months back to support claims about Government's openness. Let's make sure they live up to these claims.

  • Work for ORG

Internships at ORG give a invaluable insight into the day-to-day running of a professional pressure group. Interns' duties are tailored to the individuals' particular skills and interests. Past interns have helped develop web services to facilitate civic engagement, designed promotional and briefing literature, researched public consultation submissions - and plenty more besides. Ideally interns will work with staff in our central London offices but remote participation is possible. We are interested in both part-time and full-time candidates. Please email info[at]openrightsgroup.org or phone 020 7096 1079 for further advice on interning with ORG.

  • Next volunteer meeting: Wednesday 16 January

Our next volunteer meeting, where you guys get up close and involved with our daily grind, will be held at 18.30 on Wednesday 16 January. Physical location will be - as usual - central London but we'll have the IRC channel running so everyone can join in. Let us know via the wiki page if you can come. The meeting should run for an hour or so and be closely followed by a friendly glass of ale.

Press relations

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

Computer Business Review - 'UK faces threat from internet crime' The UK could be facing a serious threat to national security. Ian Brown, our man in Oxford, points the finger at China for flexing their 'cyber-warfare' muscles.

BBC Radio 4 - 'You and Yours' (Sorry, no link) ORG and the Chief Executive of the BPI debate the proportionality of terminating internet connections on the basis of evidence of illicit filesharing.

BBC World Service - 'Analysis' (Sorry, no link) ORG guides BBC World Service listeners through the challenges facing the recording industry.

Mini-links: Canadian copyright activism special

  • This is the Facebook group - now at 30k+ members and including many links to further groups and materials - that put the wind up Jim Prentice, the minister reponsible for the wounded legislation.

  • This simple but effective YouTube video explains problems with the proposed legislation and suggests 30 responses for activists...

Thanks

We should like to thank Glyn, Sheila, Chris, Janita, Matthew, Ryan and Ian for helping out with our Christmas party. We also thank Adam for admin hook-ups and Rachel for running the webstats. Ta also to Harry for a range of efforts. Felix gets a pre-emptive thanks for the promised widget. And thanks to Board and Advisors for contributing their considerable grey matter.

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November 30, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - November 2007

News

  • ORG Day

We published a review of our first two years' operations on 19 November, partly to celebrate our campaign and media successes but also, crucially, to drum up more financial support. In short, we must significantly increase our income from supporters if ORG over the next two years to expand our various works. However, helped along by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust's kind offer to fund-match donations up to a total value of £10,000 (2), ORG Day got a great reaction. Many bloggers were very kind to us and our request that supporters maintain (or increase!) their regular donations was well received. Also, the reaction to our plea that pledgers follow through on their promise (4) was very strong. Thanks for all your nice mails and if you have questions about supporting ORG, just reply to this mail.

  • "Revenue-gate"

Thanks to staggering negligence at HMRC, data protection and privacy concerns were thrust centre-stage this month. Full credit goes to the many activists who informed media coverage including our very own Ian Brown; Phil Booth and Michael Parker at No2ID; Richard Clayton and Ross Anderson at FIPR; Terri Dowty at FIPR and Simon Davies and Gus Hosein at Privacy International. Our efforts were largely behind the scenes, connecting the media with experts and we'll continue to direct the media traffic as the numerous public reviews of centralised databases get under way. See press and mini links below for more coverage.

  • Merry Christmas!

Our Christmas party is Saturday 15 December from 7.30pm - 2am. We are again sharing with the BBC Backstage guys - thanks, Ian. Location is Ye Olde Cock Tavern, 22 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1AA (5). There will be - amongst other treats - music, cake, party bags and werewolf. We're delighted to announce the return (for one night only!) of Copyfighters, featuring a very special surprise guest. There are 100 tickets reserved for ORGites and due to expected demand you will need to register. The allocation system only requires your name, email address and "org" as the promo code. Please use the 'Open Rights Group' ticket option. Oh, and don't forget your festive cheer.

  • Submission to the Byron Review

Thanks to everyone who collaborated on our submission to the Byron Review on children and new technology. Amongst our various recommendations we noted that centralised censorship of the Web is unreliable and parents are better-placed to manage their child's information diet by gradually introducing them to content online. The submission is available for download.

  • Creative Business in the Digital Era - Research Update

Our current research project, concerning creative businesses that distribute works for free (both as in beer and speech) is on track, thanks to Suw's masterful management. Case studies are in the works from Magnatune, Friday Publishing and Where are the Joneses. We're still asking for contributions from all you disruptive thinkers on the wiki and we also have various related tasks - including interview transcription! - for any volunteers with an hour or two spare.

  • Volunteer's meeting

The next volunteer meeting will be 16 January 2008 at 18.30. Location is central London but IRC will be running.

Press relations

Every week, we talk to the media and connecting them with experts or give them an alternate point of view on current issues.

Computerworld UK - 'Fundamental Failings in e-Voting, says Open Rights Group' The Ministry of Justice have rejected the Electoral Commission's call to halt e-Voting trials, reports Tash Shifrin. The Government also denied the fundamental criticisms made in our Elections Report and pledged to continue live trials of electoral modernisation solutions more suited to TV talent shows than a modern democracy.

Groklaw - 'Interview with Becky Hogge' Sean Daly questions ORG on Auntie's use of Microsoft DRM in the iPlayer, despite apparent conflict with the BBC's public service remit. On the positive side, we expect current platform neutrality issues to prove temporary. Yet there are more serious, long-term problems in terms of knowledge flows arising from the BBC's continued reliance on rights models and digital restrictions that destroy rather than create value.

PC Pro - 'France moves to cut off file sharers' According to Simon Aughton, French plans to terminate internet connections in the event of prolonged infringement were greeted with delight by the international recorded music industry and enthusiasm by the British government. However, digital rights activists on both sides of the channel doubt the reliability of reporting techniques and appeals procedures, which ultimately means yet more bad news for music consumers.

Daily Mail - 'Lost disc fiasco could scupper ID card scheme' James Slack reports on the data protection minister's pledge to review official storage and use of data in the wake of the child benefit fiasco. The review will likely extend to the ID cards plan, slated for introduction in 2009. Academics, including ORG advisors Ian Brown and Richard Clayton, reacted with dismay at the government's "fairytale view" of the technologies required to implement the proposed the ID card scheme.

BBC Backstage - 'Interview with Mark Taylor (Open Source Consortium) and Becky Hogge (Open Rights Group)' Yet more debate of BBC's iPlayer, this time featuring BBC staffers in discussion with activists.

Mini-links: HMRC-gate special

Thanks

Special thanks to Tim for formatting the 'annual report', to everyone who came to the volunteer meeting, to Harry for helping out in the office, to Chris for sorting our soon-to-be-unveiled leaflet, to Adam and Glyn for maintaining in the face of incompetence. Thanks to Simon, AJ, Ben and Adam (again) for chipping into the Byron Review. Thanks also to Sam and Richard for taking on the onerous transcription duties. Thanks to anyone i have not mentioned. And, as ever, thanks to the Board and Advisory Council for keeping us in the know.

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The ORG privacy policy is online at http://www.openrightsgroup.org/privacy-policy/

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October 31, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - October 2007

News

  • 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

Thanks

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.

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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