Charitable giving guide, the 2007 edition

It's that time of year again — time to make some charitable donations while the giving spirit is on you and while you have the chance to shelter some of your income from the revenooers. I'm rerunning last year's Charitable giving guide for the end-of-year, with a few updates. I've been lucky enough this year to have some money to put toward the causes I support — hope you're lucky enough to do this, too. Here's my charitable list for the year.

US Charities

Electronic Frontier Foundation: EFF always gets my largest annual donation.

Last year: 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.

This year: Man, that goes TRIPLE this year. EFF's major work on clobbering the NSA and AT&T for their massive, illegal wiretapping program has convinced me to give EFF more money than I've ever given to a charity in my life. If one organization is going to keep the Internet free and open, it's EFF. Add to that a raft of incredibly smart hires this year, and you've got a powerhouse organization that deserves everything you can spare for them.

Creative Commons:

Last year: 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.

This year: Like EFF, Creative Commons has had a knock-out year. The international projects all over the world, the widespread uptake of CC and its ideals by governments, artists, educators, scientists — whew!

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.

Last year: 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.

This year: It's called Miro now, not Democracy Player, and it's gone 1.0. It makes all the other services like Joost look like proprietary crap (if the show fits…) and it's free to all comers. All Miro wants to do is make it easy for artists and audiences to get together without ending up love-slaves to some half-baked world domination scheme hatched by a DRM broker. If we're gonna have TV, this is the kind of TV we should have.

The Clarion Foundation:

Last year: 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.

This year:: I taught Clarion last summer and spent a week in the company of the most inspiring, talented, committed, bright new writers I could have asked for. They reminded me of why Clarion is worth doing, giving to, and supporting.

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.


Last year: 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.

This year: Now more than ever, the ACLU deserves your support. The US Constitution is one of the noblest documents ever penned. We deserve to be held to its fine precepts.

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.

Canadian Charities

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.

UK Charities

Open Rights Group:

Last year: 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.

This year: ORG's incredible work on electronic voting in Britain may have just saved my adopted homeland from disaster. Their comprehensive, sober-sided and incredibly frightening work made a gigantic difference in the halls of power.

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.