Ruth from the Open Rights Group writes,
There are still some tickets left for ORGCon2013!
Don't miss out on a rare opportunity to hear John Perry Barlow speak in London, this Saturday June 8th! John Perry Barlow, co-founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation, will be headlining ORGCon2013 along with writer of The Master Switch, Tim Wu.
Debate the big issues hitting the headlines, including the cry for a Snoopers' Charter revival following the Woolwich attack, and the calls for new Internet filters in the light of April Jones' murder. As politicians use the latest tragic news stories as an excuse to regulate the Internet, now is the time to get involved with digital rights!
The final programme has the perfect mix of panel debates, workshops, rapid fire talks and guest lectures! You can look forward to sessions on the Digital Arms Trade, freedom of speech, child protection on the internet, online censorship, copyright, creative citizenship...
Plus, hear from an impressive line-up of speakers including David Allen Green of #twitterjoketrial, Jeni Tennison, Policy Head at the Open Data Institute, Richard Allan Policy Director at Facebook, Diane Duane, Star Trek and Young Wizards writer, and many more!
Individual tickets are priced at £28, £16 for ORG supporters and just £6 for students. FREE tickets if you join ORG today!
Open Rights Group - Join us at ORGCon2013!
(Disclosure: I co-founded the Open Rights Group and am pleased to serve as a volunteer advisor to it)
Jim from the Open Rights Group writes in with the announcement for this year's ORGCon, a brilliant UK digital rights event:
Legends of digital rights, Tim Wu and John Perry Barlow, will be leading Open Rights Group's 3rd national conference on June 8th. Join us for ORGCon2013 at the Institute of Engineering and Technology, Savoy Place, London for the UK's biggest digital freedoms event. ORGCon has always been a sell-out event so grab your tickets now before they all go!
This year topics covered include:
Snoopers' Charter: What's the situation now?
Jim Killock and the author's of the Digital Surveillance report on what the Government are planning next after the defeat of the Comms Data Bill.
Lessons from creative citizens: How to win at the Internet
Sci-fi author Diane Duane (Star Trek, Young Wizards), Simon Indelicate (The Indelicates) and bassist Steve Lawson will be talking about the creative ways they have developed successful artistic careers in the digital age.
What exactly is ORG anyway? Who we are and what we do
ORG staff, volunteers, Advisory Council and Board will be sharing their role in ORG and explaining what our work is all about.
Who wins when copyright and free speech clash?
Internet law expert Graham Smith (author of the mighty tome Internet Law and Regulation) and Article 19's legal officer, Gabrielle Guillemin, will be tackling this challenging question and looking at some of the conflicting principles.
How to wiretap the Cloud (without anybody noticing)
Caspar Bowden, privacy expert, will be giving explaining the serious threat to European citizens' rights from the American law, FISAA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act).
The right to be offensive: Free speech online in the UK
Policy Head of Facebook UK, Richard Allan and free speech law expert and Jack of Kent blogger, David Allen Green will be sharing their expertise on the danger from increasing use of Section127, and debate where the UK Government stands on free speech online.
and many many more!
Sign up here: Open Rights Group - Join us at ORGCon2013!
(Disclosure: I'm proud to have co-founded the Open Rights Group, and to volunteer on its advisory committee)
Aw, yeah! The UK Communications Data Bill -- AKA the "Snooper's Charter," a sweeping, totalitarian universal Internet surveillance bill that the Conservative government had sworn to pass -- is dead! Yesterday, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Parliament, announced that his party would not support the bill, and effectively killed it. Though I've been bitterly disappointed with some of the terminal compromises the LibDems have made, this makes me grateful to have them in Parliament. The kind of universal surveillance proposed in the Snooper's Charter was broadly supported by the last Labour government, which radically expanded state surveillance powers, and by the Tories -- thank goodness for the LibDems mustering a scrap of backbone at last!
The only downside is that the Open Rights Group had a whole series of great "Professor Elemental" videos that used pointed, excellent humour to mock and undermine the bill and drum up opposition to it, and now that's all going to go to waste (I blogged episode one yesterday).
Aw, who'm I kidding? This kind of thing never stays dead.
The snooper's charter has reminded Nick Clegg, finally, he is a liberal
In this startling debut episode, the renowned Professor Elemental receives a commission from the government to build a marvellous snooping machine with which to catch the badduns. The Home Secretary has the right man for the job -- with the good professor's marvellous device, the Home Office will be able to spy on every communique that traverses the British Information Superhighway!
(It's all about the Snooper's Charter, the barmy UK legislative proposal to give nearly unlimited snooping powers to the government and police, and this video is courtesy of the good people at the Open Rights Group.
Professor Elemental build a Great Machine for Catching Villains Chapter One
I've written here before that the impending UK press-regulation rules coming in as a result of the Leveson report will inadvertently end up treating bloggers and other everyday Internet users as though they were newspapers, exposing them to the threat of arbitration proceedings where they will have to pay the legal costs of people who want to silence them, and be subject to "exemplary damages" -- enormous statutory fines that grossly exceed any actual harm caused.
Now the Open Rights Group has started a campaign to warn party leaders about this in the three days we have left before Leveson becomes law. We need your help now, or bloggers and the open Internet will become collateral damage in the campaign to control Britain's awful tabloids.
Jim from ORG writes, "The Leveson regulations are being applied to UK websites -- in ways that could catch more or less anyone who publishes a blog. Ordinary bloggers could be threatened with exemplary damages and costs. If this happens, small website publishers will face terrible risks, or burdensome regulation -- and many may simply stop publishing."
Cameron, stop the Dangerous Blogs Bill
(Disclosure: I co-founded the Open Rights Group and am proud to volunteer on its advisory board)
This morning saw the publication of an editorial in The Sun by Theresa May, the UK home secretary, defending her bulk Internet surveillance proposal, the Communications Data Bill, AKA the "Snooper's Charter."
In the article, May cites a submission by by Peter Davies (Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre) as an example of why all Internet communications should be stored and made accessible to police without a warrant. Davies told the story of a murder that had been difficult to solve, and suggests that dragnet surveillance would have made the police's job simpler.
But as the Open Rights Group points out, the case in question is anything but a defense of bulk data-retention. Indeed, it involves a corrupt police officer who improperly used retained records to find information to pass on to a crime boss about a couple who were subsequently murdered. In other words, logging and storing information made it possible for a criminal and a corrupt cop to track people down.
It's nothing short of bizarre for Theresa May to cite this as a reason to retain more information, on more people, and to give access to that information to more agencies.
Tales of the Unexpected: the Communications Data Bill
Ruth from the UK Open Rights Group sez, "Open Rights Group have launched a campaign to fund a legal officer position and intervene in the courts. The link is a page which gives more details about the kind of cases we want to take on and encourages supporters to join. We want in the first place 150 new supporters for a part time job and 300 for a full time. It will allow the Open Rights Group to expand from policy work to challenging government in the courts, facilitate legal advice on digital rights issues and prepare ammendments to section 127 used to prosecute Paul Chambers in the twitter joke trial. It's an exciting prospect for protecting digital rights in the UK."
ORG is ready for legal action
(Disclosure: I co-founded the Open Rights Group and volunteer on its advisory board)
If you're as outraged as I am that the UK Coalition government is planning on spending £1.8B to spy on every click, IM, email and Facebook update, without a warrant under the Draft Communications Data Bill, then please consider visiting the Open Rights Group's petition page where we're gathering signatures to present to MPs. The Coalition is deeply divided on this issue, and there's a very good chance we'll be able to put paid to this proposal just as we did with Labour's national ID scheme, but not without your help.
Yesterday the Government unveiled the 'Communications Data Bill'. It's a proposal for more powers to intercept and collect information about who you talk to online. Your communications via Google, Facebook or Skype would be open to what may be a large number of government officials.
You can help! Please email your MP and tell them why you want to see the powers to collect and access communications data tightened up, not extended ever further.
Don't forget that ORG is running nationwide workshops to help you meet effectively with your MP to lobby them on this issue and on Internet censorship.
Snooper's Charter: write to your MP
(Disclosure: I am proud to have co-founded the Open Rights Group and to volunteer on its advisory board)
As the UK government ramps up to pass the snooper's charter -- a sweeping, unaccountable regime of tax-funded, warrantless snooping on all online activity -- the Open Rights Group is offering workshops across the country on how to talk to your MP about this proposal. Workshops are coming up in London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Bristol.
We're running these training sessions that will help you learn about two of the biggest current digital rights issues and practice how to discuss them with your MP. We'll be covering two big topics:
1. The “Snoopers’ Charter” - aka the Communications Data Bill - was announced in the Queen's speech and is about to be published by the government. The bill will create new powers to intercept and collect information about who you talk to online. Your communications via Google, Facebook or Skype will now be open to what may be a large number of government officials. We want to see the powers to collect and access communications data tightened up, not extended ever further.
2. Internet censorship. The government is considering whether Internet Service Providers should have to block websites that contain 'adult content' by default, with an 'opt out' for uncensored access. That would mean an infrastructure of censorship that could, through mistakes, abuse or mission creep, lead to more and more content being blocked for people in the UK. Our research on mobile Internet censorship recently showed how often the wrong websites can be filtered, for example. We want to prevent this further move towards private policing of the internet and free speech, and recommend better ways to help parents manage their children's Internet access.
Censorship and Surveillance Campaign Training
(Disclosure: I am proud to have co-founded the Open Rights Group and to volunteer on its advisory board)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Open Rights Group will co-host a speakeasy event -- a kind of pub night -- in east London on June 14. I'll be there, with several ORG employees, supporters and volunteers, and so will Cindy Cohn, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's legal director and veteran of many of the Internet's most important legal skirmishes (she's the one who argued the Bernstein case, legalizing civilian use of strong cryptography -- among many other accomplishments).
Speakeasy events are free, informal meetups that give you a chance to mingle with local online rights supporters and speak with the people leading the charge to protect digital civil liberties. It is also our chance to thank you, the supporters who make it possible. For this round, we are pleased to welcome EFF members as well as all friends and guests. REGISTER HERE!
June 14th, 2012 6:00 PM through 8:00 PM
The Reliance (upstairs)
336 Old Street
London, EC1V 9DR
Speakeasy: London with the Open Rights Group
Reminder: tickets are going fast for ORGCon 2012
in London on March 24: speakers include Larry Lessig, Wendy Seltzer, Ross Anderson, Tim Lowenthal and me.
My latest Guardian column is "Movie fans turn to piracy when the online cupboard is bare," a report on the Open Rights Group's study of the lawful options for people who want to watch great British movies online. The UK government and courts keep ratcheting up Internet censorship proposals because they say that there are so many lawful marketplaces that there's no excuse for "piracy." But ORG's research shows that large swathes of critical material isn't available for sale. And as we saw when major rightsholders pulled out of Hulu and iTunes before, the availability of their material on BitTorrent spiked -- if you don't offer lawful channels, you drive customers to unlawful markets.
Here's what ORG found: though close to 100% of their sample were available as DVDs, more than half of the top 50 UK films of all time were not available as downloads. The numbers are only slightly better for Bafta winners: just 58% of Bafta best film winners since 1960 can be bought or rented as digital downloads (the bulk of these are through iTunes – take away the iTunes marketplace, which isn't available unless you use Mac or Windows, and only 27% of the Bafta winners can be had legally).
And while recent blockbusters fare better, it's still a patchwork, requiring the public to open accounts with several services to access the whole catalogue (which still has many important omissions).
But even in those marketplaces, movies are a bad deal – movie prices are about 30% to 50% higher when downloaded over the internet versus buying the same movies on DVDs. Some entertainment industry insiders argue that DVDs, boxes and so forth add negligible expense to their bottom line, but it's hard to see how movie could cost less on physical DVDs than as ethereal bits, unless the explanation is price-gouging. To add insult to injury, the high-priced online versions are often sold at lower resolutions than the same movies on cheap DVDs.
Movie fans turn to piracy when the online cupboard is bare
Jim from the UK Open Rights Group sez, "David Cameron is trying to gain new powers to close social media and mobile messaging when there's 'trouble': he's also thinking about new snooping powers. We need to stop these plans before they get going."
The Government is focusing on entirely the wrong problem in trying to increase their powers to ban, block or monitor people's communications. Social networks like Twitter are used for a huge array of positive purposes such as warnings of danger and organising clean up projects. Blanket surveillance measures of private communications or increased powers to mine users data would undermine people's freedom to communicate in very damaging ways, and would in no way address the problems at hand. Making laws in haste, with limited analysis and information, to deal with an exceptional problem is likely to create unbalanced laws and abuses of our rights.
Save our social media! Stop cut offs and close downs
(Image: Riot Police, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from zoonabar's photostream)