Supporter Newsletter

July 31, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporter update - July 2008

Welcome to the latest Open Rights Group supporter update.


  • ORG-GRO: building up to sustainability
  • We've launched an ambitious supporter drive, aimed at achieving financial sustainability by increasing our individual donations from 750 to 1,500 fivers per month. The campaign launched at Open Tech and will continue through the rest of 2008 with a series of events and happenings. It's been a strong start: we've already reached 825 fivers. We've got a fundometer and prizes, including an Asus Eee PC, for supporters who increase their own donations and encourage their pals to support ORG. Get in touch if you have suggestions to help us reach our ambitious target.

  • Term Extension: 'we don't need no expert advice'
  • As a result of intense lobbying, the EU Commission disregarded the balance of evidence and formally accepted the proposal to extend the duration of copyright for sound recordings. The proposal now goes to the European Parliament. David Rowntree and prominent academics have already joined ORG in rebuffing the idea. There are three ways for you to help our Sound Copyright campaign. Please, if you have not already, sign and spread our petition; help us critique the Commission proposal and impact assessment; finally, express your views to the UK Intellectual Property Office's informal consultation.

  • Elections Report 2008
  • Our report into the e-counting of votes cast in the London Elections found "insufficient evidence" to declare confidence in the result. Besides voicing our fundamental transparency and security concerns, we called for a full cost benefit analysis of any future e-count, set against a properly costed manual count. Despite the continued obduracy of the Ministry of Justice, the latest word from the Electoral Commission backs our conclusions and vindicates our cautionary stance. Huge thanks to all the observers who put in hard work and long hours to make this report possible. Thanks also to Jason Kitcat for presenting to the GLA Electoral Review Committee.

  • Towards legislating against illicit filesharing
  • Activity on various fronts this month in the 'war on sharing'. The biggest noise came over a Government-brokered agreement, signed by the UK's six major ISPs and entertainment industry rightsholders. Its stated objective is a significant reduction in illicit filesharing and a change in popular attitudes towards copyright infringement. The agreement was published within a consultation into legislation aimed at curbing illicit filesharing on the net, which we'll be responding to in due course. Typically, the emphasis is on enforcement, with a lack of care and attention for new services and business models that would encourage consumers back onto the right side of legality. See the press roundup below for more comment from ORG on this agreement.

  • Newsblog brings you the latest digital rights stories
  • The ORG newsblog, which has now been ticking over for a few months, is maintained by volunteers as an up-to-the-minute feed of digital rights stories. You can follow it by RSS or twitter. We need you guys to suggest stories for posting so please send suggestions either to or by tagging content 'openrightsgroup' on Also, if you can lend a hand with actually posting to the blog, please drop us a line to the same address. Most of the graft so far on newsblog has been down to Richard King, who deserves a special round of applause and a beer if you see him out and about.

  • Volunteers meeting
  • The July volunteer meeting was a little quieter than usual, maybe because it's holiday season, but we did allocate a whole heap of new work and celebrate the increased productivity of our volunteer corps. It really does feel like more people are getting involved and working on a wider range of activities for us. The date for our next meeting is set as Thursday 28 August.

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving an alternate point of view on current issues. This was another bumper month for press coverage: at least 66 news sources around the world (including the Sun!) ran with an Associated Press article on filesharing featuring an ORG quote. Please see our July 2008 press archive for more details.

  • Guardian - 'London mayoral election: doubts over 41,000 votes counted by machine' Bobbie Johnson eloquently amplified our concern that London's electoral system involves an "unacceptable level of uncertainty" and our call for a "proper cost-benefit analysis of whether it's worth using electronic counting at all."
  • Ars Technica - 'Experts attack Big Content's EU copyright power-grab' - Nate Anderson reports on the plan to retroactively add 45 years of copyright protection to old sound recordings. Academics say the benefits will accrue to "record companies, aging rock stars or, increasingly, artists' estates. It does nothing for innovation and creativity." The piece also quotes our warning against "the traps of faith based policy and voodoo economics that simply grant IP rightsholders requests for more."
  • BBC Radio 4 Today Programme - 'Internet firms tackle music piracy': The announcement that Guv has brokered a deal between ISPs and rights holders to limit illegal filesharing meant we finally broke our duck on the Today programme. Alongside Billy Bragg and DCMS Minister Andy Burnham, Becky took the stage like an old hand, calmly calling for a consumer voice to enter these negotiations.
  • The Telegraph - 'Parents face fines if children illegally download music or films from web': Robert Winnett and Nicole Martin point out that parents's internet viewing will be restricted if their children continue to illegally download music or films under a Government-backed crackdown. The ORG quote suggests disconnection is a harsh and poorly-targetted punishment, which will drive illicit activity even further underground.


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:

  • Geek In the Park: "Join us on Saturday 9th August 2008 for an all-day family event including a relaxing picnic & a discussion with leaders in the web industry in the evening." Leamington Spa, England.
  • Bar Camp Leeds: "Come join us at Old Broadcasting House again, this time for two days of geekery and (hopefully) great weather on the 16th and 17th of August 2008!"
  • dConstruct: "an affordable, one-day conference aimed at those designing and building the latest generation of social web applications." 3 - 5 September 2008


  • It seems that years of campaigning are finally paying off and Guv are trying to be more open. The leaders of the new school are Power of Information (PoI) Taskforce, who are helping government become more transparent and effective through better use of published information.
  • Their flagship project - Show Us a Better Way - calls for ideas for new products to improve the way public information is communicated, with a £20,000 prize fund to develop the best ideas.
  • Our good pals at the Ministry of Justice are getting in on the act now, with 10 £15k grants for projects that will reignite people's passion for democracy or the democratic process.
  • This related beta service encourages re-use of public sector information. Tell them what you want unlocked, and they'll get on it. Impressive!

Thanks to Dan Ray for being a superb intern. Thanks to Casbon and Cronin for the donations of hardware that meant we could upgrade from 1990s to 2000s machinery; thanks to Adam for installing the goods. Thanks to Glyn, Sheila and Richard for repping the ORG at LUG Radio Live. Thanks to the audio monkeys (Tom, Rowan, Mark and Dan) for helping us to help UKUUG and record Open Tech. Thanks to Anne, Mark and Rowan for the 'one-sheets'. Thanks to Lemon and Mike for keeping us online and even moving forward a little bit. Thanks to Sheila for starting work on a redesign of our website. Thanks to Glyn, who is always on the case for us. Thanks to Harry for something or other. Thanks to anyone who is using our widget. Big ups to the Board and Advisory Council.

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June 30, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporter update - June 2008


  • London Elections Report

The ORG report into the May 2008 London e-count will be published this week. Keep an eye on our blog to read the report in full.

  • ORG's European Vacation

News that the European Commission may soon formally propose an extension to copyright term on sound recordings sent Becky and Gavin off to Brussels to speak with key policy makers. Packed in their suitcases: passports; smart suits; a petition signed by over 11,000 Europeans asking the Commission to consider the views of citizens and consumers, and not just powerful rightsholders; and a letter of objection drafted by the continent's most respected intellectual property thinkers. The fight for Sound Copyright continues!

  • Open Tech 2008

Open Tech "is an informal, low cost one-day conference on technology, society and low-carbon living, featuring Open Source ways of working and technologies that anyone can have a go at." The ORG was conceived at Open Tech 2005. This year we're leading two of the morning sessions, a keysigning party and will be meeting with supporters in the bar once the formal sessions have finished, at around 19.30. See the programme for more details on all the sessions. And please, if you're coming down, make sure to join us for a drink and give ORG volunteers and staff a heads up on the digital rights issues you're concerned with.

  • The Future of the Internet in Focus

Will consumer pressure for a safer net mean the end of open platforms and rapid innovation? And should the geeks who "get" the net care if the rest of the world prefer TiVos and iPhones? This month we co-hosted an event at the British Computer Society to discuss the problems raised by Jonathan Zittrain's new book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. Professor Zittrain was joined by technology journalist Bill Thompson and Becky Hogge to discuss the threat that insecurity and "tethered appliances" pose to the generative internet. We were also fortunate enough to have an expert and lively audience. The recording (click to listen) shows the broad range of views within our community.

  • Volunteers meeting

June's volunteer meeting was a boisterous but productive session, with the usual mix of issues discussion and apportioning of duties, followed by a friendly ale. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday 24 July, please indicate on the wiki if you want to join in.

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving an alternate point of view on current issues. Please see our June 2008 press archive for more details

A service enabling users to locate friends to within a radius of a few hundred metres and costing 50p a time will soon be available on Facebook, reports Andrea-Marie Vassou. Our concern here is that the privacy risks associated with publicising location data are not recognised by the general public, especially in the context of social networks where the concept of friend is meaningless.

Virgin are sending warning letters to broadband customers suspected of illegally sharing music files. Although there is no threat to disconnect, users are told they "need to stop or face action". According to Simon Aughton, the BPI and the Government welcome the approach. Our concern that file sharers will switch to using encrypted protocols to evade detection is quoted.

David Hepworth notes the varying responses from ISPs to the record industry's demands to tackle copyright infringement online and compensate them for the unauthorised use of their products. He's not convinced a music tax should be levied because every other sector of the entertainment industry, starting with sporting and movie right holders, will be next in line.


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:

  • LUG Radio Live UK 2008 includes sessions on free software, Open Source, digital rights, technology and more, a compelling list of speakers, exhibitors and birds of a feather sessions. Described as combining the atmosphere of a rock concert and a computer conference!

  • UKGovWeb Teacamp is a gathering for people working in and around UK government with a particular interest in government online. It happens twice a month, on the first and third Thursdays.

Mini Links: Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)


Thanks to Mike, Lemon and Adam for keeping the site running. Thanks to Chris, Fred, James and Dean for helping with our supporter drive tools. Thanks to Patrick, Rowan, Mark, Anne Onn, Sheila, Glyn, Adam, Chris, Rachel, Richard and Elliot for participating in the June volunteer meet and getting busy on their alloted tasks. Thanks to Raph for getting involved with the wiki. Thanks to Felix for recording our event at the BCS. Thanks to the Observers who helped Becky to draft our 2008 Elections Report. Gracious thanks to the Board and Advisory Council. And last of all, thanks to Becky, Gavin and Dan for doing 'most everything else.

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May 30, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporter update - May 2008


  1. Election Observers
  2. The 2008 Election Observers performed their duties to perfection earlier this month, keeping a watchful eye on the electronic count of the London elections. Their individual reports will be combined to produce our official report, which will be published in late June. Although the administration of the e-count was an improvement on the (near-disastrous) 2007 elections, our fundamental concerns around transparency remain.

  3. Floreat ORG
  4. We are delighted to announce new additions to the Open Rights Group office. Gavin Hill has been appointed as our new Policy Officer to work at the European level against copyright term extension and the "three strikes" agenda. We also welcome Daniel Ray for a two-month internship. He will be focussing on network neutrality issues - if you want to help him out please do so via the wiki or drop a line to daniel at openrightsgroup dot org. Meanwhile, our founding Executive Director Suw Charman is moving on from the ORG Board of Directors to concentrate on new projects, and Louise Ferguson is stepping down as Chair of the Board, although she will continue as a Director. Suw and Louise brought vast energy and expertise over the last three years and we cannot thank them enough for their contributions.

  5. Consultations
  6. We're working towards two consultations this month and ask you to inform our submissions. If you care about how the public service obligations imposed on the BBC and other brodcasters are reformed for the digital age then please have your say on either consult or the wiki. The other ongoing consultation is a review of consumer protection regulation, whose remit includes regulation of DRM and the enforcement of intellectual property rights. Again, please respond through the wiki or consult.

  7. Volunteers meeting
  8. Unfortunately we had to cancel the May volunteer meeting but are excited for the rescheduled meeting on 12 June. The main item on the agenda will be our network neutrality briefing pack, so anyone with a particular interest in that issue really should join in. As usual, we'll run the IRC channel to include those unable to join us in London. And if you'd like a conference call as well, please indicate on the wiki.

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving an alternate point of view on current issues. There are too many great press stories to link here, including mentions on Channel 4, ITV, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Times. Please see our May 2008 press archive for more details.

The Sun - 'Beeb tries to extermi-knit' ORG scored major press exposure this month by helping out with a peculiarly British story of overzealous copyright protection involving the BBC's premier export, Doctor Who, and an allegedly infringing knitting pattern. See mini-links below for the full story. Colin Robertson's report seemed especially noteworth for being ORG's first mention in the 'nation's favourite newspaper'.

Experian Q&S / Data Quality News - 'Data Quality News on employees 'black list'' A database is in development for busineses to report dishonesty amongst employees, and for prospective employers to trawl for dirt on recruitment candidates. We're on hand to point out the database will encourage prejudice and abuse against workplace activits and whistleblowers.


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:

The Future of the Internet in Focus is an event we're co-hosting at the British Computer Society on 4 June, featuring Jonathan Zittrain and Bill Thompson. Unfortunately its fully booked now but fear not as we'll make an audio recording available.

Open Tech 2008 is "an informal, low cost one-day conference on technology, society and low-carbon living, featuring Open source ways of working and technologies." We're very excited that Danny O'Brien will be presenting on our behalf and hope to see many of you guys there.



Thanks to Daniel and Gavin for joining the party. Thanks to Mike, Lemon and Adam for fiddling with our website. Thanks to Caroline, Glyn, David and Louise for representing both ORG and No2ID at the Dulwich fair. 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 Casbon for further efforts on SuppDB. Thanks to the newsbloggers: Glyn, Harry, Mark and Richard. Humble thanks to the Board and Advisory Council. And last of all, thanks to Becky, whose great efforts go largely unappreciated. Oh, and thanks to you for reading this far!

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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:


  • 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:,3605,1537039,00.html
  • 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 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:

    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.

    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".

    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):[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:

    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.


    Visit 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.


    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

    2. When you're done, copy and paste your message to the Commissioner's office email at: If you like, cc: us at

    (You may want to check 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.
  • 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: Find out why they're doing it: Paypal fivers or offers of help to:

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: - 15 years fighting for privacy - 21 orgs, 14 countries - the free wiki world map - grassroots for an open culture - because your rights are reserved

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April 30, 2008 | Michael Holloway

Supporter update - April 2008


  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 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 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.


  • 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?


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, 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


  • 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 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


  • 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.


  • 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 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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