Supporter update - December 2008

Welcome to the latest Open Rights Group supporter update. In this edition:

- Who's been losing your data? - - Fudging the copyright agenda - - IWF vs Wikipedia - - ORG wins 1st award - - Volunteering for ORG - - Press - - Events - - Mini Links - - Thanks -


  • Who's been losing your data?
  • You hand over your personal details to councils, hospitals, employers and businesses all the time. But these institutions don't always keep that data safe. In fact, since HMRC lost its entire database of child benefit claimants last year, high profile data losses have hit the headlines with worrying regularity. But how does this affect you and your family? Use our questionnaire (click here) to find out how likely it is that a Government department or corporate entity has been losing your data recently. Please also spread the link.

  • Fudging the copyright agenda
  • While we waited patiently for improvements to copyright's flexibility, such as exceptions for transformative works and decent legal alternatives to illicit file-sharing, it seems Government lost focus. Andy Burnham is now dropping hints at a U-turn on the UK's policy against term extension and David Lammy launched yet another review of the copyright agenda. ORG will dutifully respond to the consultation and - as usual - requests your (evidence-based) contributions. Meanwhile, we've submitted a series of Freedom of Information requests to reveal just why Government has disregarded the digital-friendly elements of Gowers.

  • Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) vs Wikipedia
  • The IWF-imposed block of an image hosted by Wikipedia and subsequent volte-face caused something of a constitutional crisis on the interwebs. ORG was there to tell netizens' side of the story, and after the fuss died down, we made three initial recommendations to open the lid on how UK ISPs censor the web.

  • ORG wins 1st award
  • ORG was honoured alongside No2ID, Liberty, Genewatch and others at this year's UK Big Brother Awards. The awards are organised by Privacy International and recognise the efforts of campaigners to keep state and corporate mass surveillance at bay. New Labour were also mentioned at the awards, although for their dishonourable activities in support of snooping and control. This is our first award and feels pretty special.

  • Volunteering for ORG
  • One of our main organisational aims is fostering a community of digital rights activists and we now have close to 100 regular volunteer contributors. If you want to get more involved then please find a job that suits your skills on our public list of tasks or come along to our next volunteer meeting. Please note there's a dedicated volunteer mailing list and Facebook group.

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 the press archive for more details.

  • The Metro - 'Net nannies break Wikipedia in album cover kerfuffle'
  • Tom Phillips points out systemic failings in the IWF's censorship process, as shown by their mistreatment of an image hosted by Wikipedia, which had the unintended and widely reviled consequence of blocking most UK users' write access to the site. ORG commented that the trend for ISP-level content blocking, now mooted in relation to copyright enforcement, encourages clumsy content regulation.

  • Heise Online - 'IWF blocking policy questioned by Open Rights Group'
  • Terry Relph-Knight reports some of our recommendations to the IWF, which were blogged together with recognition of their usually high standards and the job's inherent difficulties. We recommend users be properly informed - by seeing a 403 ("access forbidden") rather than a 404 ("file-not-found") error message - that their request is blocked. We also recommend improved transparency and accountability by greater efforts to notify website operators that a block is in place and, finally, some form of judicial oversight.

    The 'IWF vs Wikipedia' story also saw us mentioned this month in The Guardian and Channel 4 News.

  • Ars Technica - 'UK consumers, Big Content battle over three-strikes rules'
  • Nate Anderson juxtaposes two responses to the Guv consultation on infringing uses of p2p networks. UK Music deride the weight of academic evidence and commend the introduction of extreme sanctions. ORG, conversely, argues that the record industry must do more to entice consumers away from illegal services, rather than basing their business model on threats and extortion.

  • BBC - Directors demand film piracy ban
  • Film directors, haunted by the piracy bogeyman, demand protection from illegal online file-sharing of film and TV content for their industry. ORG repeated our view that, while we don't condone illicit file sharing, the creative industries need to make their wares available in ways that appeal to the public's wallets.
Events The very best way to stay updated on ORG-esque events is with our Upcoming group. Here's some particularly exciting events happening in the next month or so:
  • Convention on Modern Liberty
  • "A call to all concerned with attacks on our fundamental rights and freedoms under pressure from counter-terrorism, financial breakdown and the database state." ORG will be hosting a panel on behavioral advertising. Nationwide, Sunday 28 February 2009

  • Rewired State's National Hack the Government Day
  • "We're going to show them how it's done. If you can make things, and think you can do better than government...". London, Data TBC

  • LugRadio Live UK 2009
  • No details as such but a date for your diaries. Wolverhampton, July 18 - 19 2009

Biggest thanks to Sam, Glyn, Rowan and Casey for producing the data loss questionnaire. Thanks also to Sheila for her continued work on the website redesign. Thanks to Chris and Rowan for starting work on an exciting new microsite. Thanks to the Board and Advisory for all their doings.