It's time to donate — the time of year when you have to give your money to charity or turn it over to the gubmint. I've just done a marathon round of end-of-year charitable giving:
Electronic Frontier Foundation: EFF always gets my largest annual donation. No organization works harder, spends smarter and gets more done for your personal long-term technological liberty than EFF. I spent years inside the org and I know for a fact that every dime donated makes a difference.
Creative Commons: Just four years after launching CC has turned into a global movement. More than 160,000,000 works have been released under CC licenses. It's good news for creators and audiences — but it's amazing news for the public interest. The proof that there's more than one kind of rightsholder using technology today has stayed the hand of more than one regulator. CC keeps getting better, smarter and more global.
Free Software Foundation/Defective By Design: It's wonderful to see a campaigning group based on fighting DRM. Defective by Design has pulled off a number of audacious and clever actions that have raised public awareness of DRM. The fight starts here.
The Internet Archive: What would we do without it? I use it every day. Its mission: Universal access to all human knowledge. What could be more noble?
The Gutenberg Project: The world's leading access-to-public-domain project. They have truly created a library from nothing, and oh, what a library.
The MetaBrainz Foundation: I'm on the board of this charity, which oversees the MusicBrainz project. MusicBrainz is a free and open alternative to the evil (dis)Gracenote, which took all the metadata about CDs that you and I keyed in and locked it away behind a wall of patents and onerous licensing deals. The org that controls the metadata controls the world — this needs to be in the public's hands.
The Participatory Culture Foundation: I'm on the board of this charity, which produces ass-kicking media software in the public interest. The best-known of these is Democracy Player, an Internet TV program that just works — add feeds based on YouTube keywords, or published feeds from creators, and new video arrive automagically and just play. Because TV is too important to leave up to Microsoft and Apple.
The Clarion Foundation: I'm on the board of this charity, which oversees the world-famous Clarion Writers' Workshop, a bootcamp for sf writers that has produced some of the finest talents in our field, including Octavia Butler, Bruce Sterling, Nalo Hopkinson, Kelly Link, and Lucius Sheppard. I'm a graduate myself, and an instructor (I taught in 2005 and I'll be back in 2007) — I received a substantial scholarship to the workshop in 1992 and it changed my life. I will pay that debt forward every year.
Hospice Net: I make a donation to this charity every year in memory of my dear friend, former Boing Boing guestblogger Pat York. Pat was killed in a car accident, and her family nominated this charity for memorial gifts.
ACLU: For the liberties the EFF doesn't cover, here in sticky meatspace, we have the ACLU. Fearless upholders of the Constitution — an org that knows that you have to stand up for the rights of people you disagree with, or you aren't in a free society.
Consumer Project on Technology: CPTech was the first copyright activist group to take the fight to WIPO, the UN agency that makes copyright treaties (you can thank WIPO for the DMCA — they have the same relationship to bad copyright laws that Sauron has to evil, a kind of origin-node for all the crap that's destroying the infosphere). They marshalled a huge and effective activist opposition there, and are presently turning the agency upside down with a progressive treaty called Access to Knowledge.
Public Knowledge: Public Knowledge are the best copyfighters on the Hill, real DC insiders who know the ins and outs of fighting in the halls of administrative agencies like the FCC. We never could have killed the Broadcast Flag without PK, and I'm grateful that someone else is willing to be the person who puts on a suit and explains things in plain language to Congressional staffers. It's a thankless task. These days, they're leading the charge on Net Neutrality, a fight that we have to win if we're going to have any online future to speak of.
Online Rights Canada: ORC (awesome acronym, huh?) is Canada's leading cyber-activist group, a collaboration between EFF and CIPPIC at the University of Ottawa. They really mobilized during the last Canadian federal election and managed to kick out a corrupt politician who took campaign contributions from huge multinational media, software and pharmaceutical companies and then wrote laws in their favour.
Youth Challenge International: YCI sends young Canadians abroad to work on sustainable, community initiated development projects. Challengers work in international teams that include Costa Ricans, Guyanese, and Australians. I'm an alumnus, having done a hitch in a Nicaraguan squatter village in rural Costa Rica when I was 21, and it changed my life forever.
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation: My aunt Heather died of breast cancer when she was only 41. My whole family is now involved with the society. I don't live in Toronto and can't join the annual run for the cure there, but at least I can donate to the cause.
Open Rights Group: Danny O'Brien and I co-founded ORG a couple years ago and I continue to serve on its advisory board. ORG has done stupendous work since its founding, culminating in its aggressive lobbying of the Gowers Commission review of copyright. The Gowers Report is out now, and ORG won — the Commission has strongly recommended that UK music recording copyrights not be extended to 95 years. This is the first time that I know of that a copyright term extension has been shot down, and it's in no small part thanks to ORG.
NO2ID: As the UK sleepwalks into a surveillance state, NO2ID stands as the nation's best, last bulwark against an Orwellian nightmare of universal tracking. NO2ID has won substantial victories against the Blair regime's compulsive move towards a national ID card, keeping it at bay for years.
MySociety: Software in the public interest — it's a damned good idea. MySociety produces software like Pledgebank ("I will risk arrest by refusing to register for a UK ID card if 100,000 other Britons will also do it") and TheyWorkForYou (every word and deed by every Member of Parliament). It's plumbing for activists and community organizers.