Supporter update - July 2008

Welcome to the latest Open Rights Group supporter update.

News

  • 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 newsbloggers@openrightsgroup.org or by tagging content 'openrightsgroup' on del.icio.us. 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.

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:

  • 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

Mini-links

  • 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

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.