If you’re interested in digital rights, copyright and digital activism, you really need to grab a ticket to ORGCon on Saturday July 24 at City University. The schedule is really starting to shape up, with keynotes and panels from Jamie Boyle, Cory Doctorow, and Tom Watson.

Tickets prices are:

  • Free if you join the Open Rights Group on the day
  • £5 for existing supporters
  • £10 for the general public

More details:

We’ll have training sessions about how to lobby your MP and more volunteer workshops. There’ll also be discussions on the state of UK politics after #GE2010 and why this is a key moment to push harder for reform on digital issues from surveillance to copyright to DRM. The keynote speaker will be James Boyle, a founder of the modern movement to recognize, protect, and grow the intellectual commons.

Sessions will include

* James Boyle on the future of copyright, in London especially for this talk
* Thriving in the Real Digital Economy: Cory Doctorow talks and then chairs a panel of artists.
* Digital Economy Act: What’s Next? (Tom Watson, Eric Joyce, Julian Huppert)
* What is the ‘Right to Data’? (Heather Brooke, Rufus Pollock)
* Opening up the Data Protection Directive: Can of Worms or Opportunity (Privacy International)
* Dismantling the Database State (NO2ID, ARCH, Big Brother Watch)
* Theft! A History of Music (Jennifer Jenkins)
* ACTA: A Shady Business (La Quadrature du Net, Becky Hogge)

I will be there, slightly jetlagged as I get back from my holiday in the US the day before, running a session on a new project, ORGZine. I was slightly jetlagged at OpenTech05, the event at which the Open Rights Group was formed, so I will need someone to make sure I don’t accidentally volunteer to start an NGO again…
So, head over to Eventbrite now and get your ticket before they all sell out!

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If, like me, you disapprove of Mandelson’s Digital Economy Bill you can:

Whatever you do, do it now.

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Dear Lily

by Suw on September 30, 2009

Dan Bull’s Dear Lily, [an open letter to Lily Allen]:

Best bit of activism I’ve seen all year!

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If you want to do something about this, please write to your MEP and support the Open Rights Group so that they can continue to campaign on your behalf.

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Mr Neil on piracy, obscurity and slash

by Suw on October 29, 2008

Last Friday, Mr Neil, Patron of the Open Rights Group, gave a talk to 200 fans and ORG supporters entitled Piracy vs. Obscurity (a reference to Tim O’Reilly’s quote, “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy”). You’re probably wondering why it has taken me so long to report back – after all, we all know I’m a bit of a fan. Well, the delay is partly because I was waiting for the audio recording of the evening find its way online, and partly just because I’m really just a bit crap. The audio’s finally up, and if this little widget works the way it’s supposed to you’ll be able to listen to Neil right here. Or, if you prefer, you can download an MP3.

The sound is a little faint, and you can’t hear the questions in the Q&A, but you can hear Neil, which is the most important bit. For someone who’d stepped off a plane at noon that day, spent the afternoon doing interviews, the early evening in a graveyard waiting for the light to fail enough so that the photographer’s assistant could run about in the background whilst he stood very still, and had entirely failed to find five minutes to plan what he was going to say, Neil’s talk went beyond merely coherent (a feat in itself with the kind of jetlag you get coming from there to here) and was actually very insightful, intelligent and, above all, funny. Neil’s sense of timing is impeccable – somewhere in a parallel universe he’s known not as a novelist or comic book writer, but the UK’s finest stand-up comedian.

I would particularly encourage any of my not-yet-published author friends to listen, particularly to the question, which you can’t hear but have to infer, about whether or not it’s damaging to put unpublished works online. I agree completely with Neil that you really need to get your stuff out there, that getting read is the most important thing and that the chances of you either having your stuff nicked or putting off a publisher is vanishingly small.

One question I wanted to ask, but didn’t, was whether Neil might one day release something under a Creative Commons license that would allow derivative works. He already has a very generous attitude towards students wanting to make films of his short stories, which is that if they pay a peppercorn fee (he mentioned the sum of one of your American dollars), then they can adapt a story. I think that’s an admirable stance to take.

But I have to admit that I would walk over fields of broken glass to be allowed to record and share an audio book version of something – anything – by Neil. I am currently reading Stardust to Kevin, who has seen the film but not read the book. Indeed, Kev’s never really read anything by Neil – I don’t think he’d even heard of Neil til the first time I started gushing about him – so it’s nice to be able to read Stardust whilst he’s away. We are, of course, having to both time- and space-shift it, so I am recording it in sections of about 10 pages at a time, and then shoving it up on a private wiki that only we can access. It is huge amounts of fun to read aloud, and I really wish I could read something of Neil’s that I could legitimately share with more people than just my husband.

(As a digression, some books are fabulous to read aloud, and some really aren’t. Stardust flows beautifully off the tongue and I hardly ever stumble. I introduced Kev to Terry Pratchett too, and that’s a joy to read out loud. But Neal Stephenson’s Cobweb, on the other hand, is not only the worst thing he’s ever written, it’s also nigh on the worst thing I’ve ever read: long and overly complex sentences turn into interminable paragraphs which leave one wanting to set the damn thing afire rather than continue forcing all those words through your poor, beleaguered brain.)

Finally, if you want to hear more of Mr Neil, then I highly recommend that you watch the readings of his latest novel, The Graveyard Book. Not only is it a wonderful book, it’s also beautifully read and a joy to listen to.

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Olympics v freedom

by Suw on September 2, 2008

Blatant copy from Ian Brown’s blog, but it was so good I wanted to keep it for myself:

“I admit, I questioned the wisdom of giving the games to a city with such a poor human rights record — every citizen under surveillance, police executing suspects, people interrogated just for taking a photo in a railway station — but maybe London can rise to the occasion.” —Dave Garner

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Neil Gaiman & ORG, October

by Suw on September 2, 2008

The Open Rights Group has organised an evening with Neil Gaiman, its Founding Patron, on Friday, 24 October (7.00 – 9.00 pm), where Neil will talk about Piracy and Obscurity:

In this, the first public appearance of his Graveyard Book UK tour, he invites fans and ORG supporters to discuss piracy from the perspective of a creator, what it means to be one of the tribe of readers, and why most people discover their favourite authors for free.

The venue – The Crypt on the Green, St James Church, Clerkenwell – is tiny compared to many events Neil does, with only 150 places, so it’s going to feel very intimate and personal.

The schedule for the evening is:

19.00 – Doors open. We’ll welcome you into the crypt with wine and nibbles.
19.30 – Neil’s talk starts and will be followed by an extended Q&A
21.00 – The talk finishes and all attendees are invited for a drink to the private upstair rooms of an adjacent pub, The Three Kings

If you’re a Neil fan, then you really need to sign up fast. I meant to blog about this when the announcement was made last Thursday, but have been insanely busy what with one thing and another. In the meantime, the ‘£10 on the door’ tickets have all sold out, leaving only the New ORG Supporter tickets (join between now and the event, and entry is free, 20 left), and the Existing ORG Supporter (£5 on the door, 28 left) tickets.

(UPDATE: ORG have released some more ‘£10 on the door’ tickets, and there are currently 24 left. Grab them now whilst you can!)

I would highly recommend that you sign up asap, because these tickets aren’t going to be around for long! And, as you can see from the counter to the left (if you’re reading this on the site rather than RSS), ORG is up to 921 supporters now. Hopefully this fundraiser will push it over the 1000 mark. That would finally get ORG the same number of supporters that originally pledged, and that we were supposed to launch with (although, of course, we were working on campaigns before we even had a name or a bank account!).

The aim is to get ORG up to 1500, and it’s important that they reach that goal. The list of issues that they need to campaign on isn’t getting any shorter, and there aren’t any more hours in the week, so the best way to continue being as effective as they have been is to expand. And they can’t do that without money!!

So, don’t just sign up to support ORG, don’t just come along to see Neil, convince a friend to sign up too!

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Good reasons to join ORG

by Suw on August 2, 2008

Here’s the deal – if you join the Open Rights Group, and send your confirmation code to Danny O’Brien, he has said he will produce:

  • A daily blog post for another month (worth five ORG memberships) [He’s now up to 2 months – let’s see if we can make it 3]
  • A special one-off issue of NTK (five ORG memberships)
  • A special podcast issue of NTK (five ORG memberships)
  • What I really think of Andrew Orlowski (five ORG memberships, even though I know I should probably price this one higher) [He’s taken this off the list as he says it’s bound to happen sooner or later anyway.]
  • A mini-version of Life Hacks, the book he nearly wrote with Merlin Man (ten ORG memberships)

Alternatively, if you send me your ORG confirmation codes, and I get five of them, I’ll blog here every day for a month too (apart from the time we’re on holiday!).

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We – ORG and a number of other groups – have been campaigning against the extension of copyright term on sound recordings for quite a while now. My last big campaign as Executive Director of the Open Rights Group was Release The Music, wherein we called on the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property to reject calls by the music industry to extend the term. We were successful.

Not only does extending the term not make sense economically, it doesn’t make sense for musicians either, as only a tiny, tiny minority of them will actually benefit. The rest will just have to sit and watch their back catalogue recordings sit and rot in the vaults of record companies who don’t want to be bothered to re-release or promote them. Sir Cliff will rake in the cash whilst jobbing musicians will get nothing.

Now the fight has moved to the EU: Commissioner Charlie McCreevy announced in February that he intends to extend the copyright term in sound recordings from 50 to 95 years. In response, ORG and EFF Europe have put together a petition, which I strongly urge you to sign. It’s says, very simply:

The following individuals state their opposition to a copyright term extension for sound recordings.

We ask the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers to ensure that policy in this area reflects all concerned stakeholders, including consumer and public interest organisations, and not just the commercial rights-holders who advocate for extended copyright term.

ORG’s briefing pack will be helpful if you want to understand the issues more thoroughly, as will the posts on the ORG blog.

But please do sign the petition – it only takes a moment to do, and it’s really very important.

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CBDE special guests announced

by Suw on February 6, 2008

A little unashamed pimping and cross-posting… 😉

Over the last few months I’ve working hard on the Creative Business in the Digital Era research project (hence my quietude here), which is examining the way in which businesses are using open intellectual property as a central pillar of their business model.

The project culminates in three free seminars in central London during March – a full day on 17th March, and two evening seminars on 18th/19th (with roughly the same content in each) – during which we’ll talk about what we’ve discovered about open IP businesses, and talk to people who are actually giving stuff away whilst also making money from it. We’ve managed to recruit three fabulous guest speakers:

Monday 17 March
Tom Reynolds, blogger, ambulance technician and author of Blood, Sweat and Tea, published under Creative Commons licence and in paper by The Friday Project.
John Buckman, entrepreneur, musician and founder of CC music label Magnatune.

Tuesday 18 March (evening)
– Tom Reynolds graces our presence again.

Wednesday 19 March (evening)
David Bausola, the creative mind behind interactive online comedy Where are the Jonses?

The seminar is aimed at people within the creative industry – e.g. music, publishing, film, TV, radio, visual arts, photography – and from any size of company, whether they are freelances or a C-level exec. The course materials are all being prepped out in the open, under CC licence.

As mentioned, the seminar is free to attend – if you are interested, all you need to do is to fill in our application form.

If you’re interested yourself, please do apply! If you have a blog, podcast or Twitter account and would like to mention our seminar, please do. And if you know of anyone who might be interested in coming, feel free to tell them about it.

Our deadline for applications is 15th February, so apply now!

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Creative Business in the Digital Era

January 17, 2008

At last, applications for the Creative Business seminar that I’ve been working on, examining new business models based around giving away creative works, are open! If you are interested in coming along, you can read more on the site, or download the application pack.

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ORG Day!

November 19, 2007

It seems very hard to believe, but it’s over two years since the Open Rights Group was started by myself, Danny O’Brien, Ian Brown, Rufus Pollock, Stef Magdalinski, and Cory Doctorow at OpenTech, on 23 July 2005. We rapidly brought Louise Ferguson, James Cronin, William Heath and Ben Laurie on board (and onto the Board), […]

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Open Rights Group looking for new Board members

June 5, 2007

It doesn't seem like it, but it's nearly two years since I started ORG, along with Ian Brown, Rufus Pollock, Cory Doctorow, and Danny O'Brien, at the OpenTech conference. In the following weeks, we got together with Stef Magdalinski, James Cronin, Louise Ferguson and Ben Laurie and William Heath to form the ORG Board. Later […]

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Flagpole Sitta

May 1, 2007

I don't know if posting videos is sort of cheating on my whole 'will blog daily' thing… but this one is so fab you really have to see it. (Thanks John!) Lip Dub – Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger on Vimeo Later… Whilst I was googling for Harvey Danger to see if it really is […]

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Support ORG and party! (And win cool stuff!)

April 3, 2007

It's just over a week til the Open Rights Group's Support ORG (and Party!) event, at which there will be public domain DJs, free culture goodie bags and the chance to win some really cool schwag. Our special guest speaker is the wonderful Danny O'Brien, who is always fantastic value for money and well worth […]

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