✍ Digital Liberty Activism

Ubuntu UK Podcast LogoA big hello to listeners to the Ubuntu UK Podcast, where I’m appearing as a guest on this week’s show.

In my interview in this episode, I focused on digital liberty issues, which I believe to be hugely important and becoming more so every day. If you’re ready to find out more about the issues I discussed, here’s a quick guide along with hints on taking action. I mentioned writing to your MP and MEP – there’s an encouraging guide to read if the idea makes you nervous.


Driven no doubt by ‘input’ from their suppliers, the BBC have requested permission from the regulator OfCOM to be allowed to add digital restriction measures to their digital TV broadcasts. Many groups – including OSI – are concerned about this. OfCOM are seeking input on how to respond to this request. If you are a UK license-fee payer, you should write to OfCOM today and tell them how you feel about this. The Open Rights Group have everything you need to get started.

Digital Economy Bill

The Digital Economy Bill (or “#debill” to the Twittering classes) is a legislative pastiche covering a wide range of issues. There’s no doubt that the issues it addresses are important to British citizens. But the Bill seems to have been very heavily influenced (albeit with care) by lobbyists from media industries and lacks adequate protections for the rest of us.

It has been framed along the lines of “stop pirate downloaders robbing Cliff Richard of his pension” but it contains many badly considered measures that will affect our digital liberty. Worse, there has not been time spent in Parliament considering this problem. Worst of all, the Bill looks certain to be waved though on a nod and a wink following an inadequate second reading on April 6th in a big rush to avoid the election.

So what can you do?


ACTA is the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (although it covers far, far more than just the creation of counterfeit goods). This is a big topic I’ve written about here a few times. The best primer on ACTA is probably the Wikipedia page. My illustration about fungus came from a blog post of mine a while back, and you’ll like the LQN summary and the blog by Michael Geist I mentioned.

To take action, start with the action summary I suggested after my visit to FLOSS Weekly.

UK Elections

Geeks Vote Too ShirtAs political issues become more and more technology-dependent, it’s important that we ask out political representatives to get educated and pay personal attention rather than just listening to lobbyists. They are, after all, supposed to be representing us human citizens and not the interests of abstract legal-fiction corporations. Both DeBill and the surveillance society in the UK come from listening to to too many lobbyists and not enough voters. They need to know that geeks vote too.

What can you do?

  • Why not join in with the Vote Geek community? There’s no better way to focus attention on digital democracy than to ask informed questions about it.
  • Upload election leaflets at The Straight Choice to help create transparency over election tactics.

Thanks for listening and for visiting my web site – why not subscribe and follow me on twitter?  🙂

☞ Digging Deeper, Finding Salt

☞ Modernising Privacy

  • This is a welcome development, one we need to see replicated in other subject areas and other countries. Most of the law we have is based on assumptions from an era that has passed.

    The old hub-and-spoke approach to the world – with central control and subject-citizens-consumers – is rapidly being replaced with a meshed world of equals, connected peer-to-peer across the net. We need laws that reflect that reality. The concepts behind the old laws are almost all still valid, but they need re-projection through the lens of a meshed society to allow us to live lives that are private, empowered and full of richness. This privacy coalition is a great step forward, finding as it has a common point between its participants motivations to unite them for reform.

    Now we need to also identify similar common points for unity around access to knowledge, freedom to create, open data and software freedom.

Other news:

☞ Washed Up and Sold Out

♫ More Music Picks

More of my weekly music picks. They are free of charge, as long as you’re in the right place to get them. This week’s favourites: The Six Degrees Sampler  and the great Loscil ambient track.

Loc Title Artist Comments
USA Coupled Key Cydelix Acoustic Spanish guitar lead, dreamy electronica backing, earnest piano melody growing to sustained sound-wall with psychotic fiddler – yes, people, we have a decent instrumental chill-out track on our hands.
USA The Best Treasure Stays Buried Zoey Van Goey Sounding for all the world like a junior Suzanne Vega
USA Dub for Cascadia Loscil Great ambient track that could have escaped from the Myst soundtrack.
USA Album: Global Grooves Sampler Six Degrees Records Another great sampler album from Six Degrees, with eleven quality tracks of world music.
UK One Time Justin Bieber A taster for the latest teen heartthrob. Disco heaven but I’ll be waiting until his voice breaks before I listen again.

If you don’t already have it, bookmark Mercedes-Benz Mixtape. Every eight weeks the M-B marketing folks post a new mix of new artists on this page, complete with a zip-file of the MP3s for easy download from anywhere (mouse over the player and click “MP3 Downloads”).

☞ Politics of Copyright

☞ Monkey Business

  • Miguel de Icaza clarifies his comments regarding Microsoft’s handling of the open source community over the last 8 years. I find myself in complete agreement with him for once. Had Microsoft had the epiphany that open source was something it could instinctively adopt and harness at the start of the decade, the world today would be very different.

    Instead, it finds itself with a history of toxic behaviour that no amount of attempted reconciliation will quickly clear, especially while the leadership that attacked the free and open source movement is still in place. I hear the job of figurehead for their open source work is proving hard to fill, and no wonder – who wants to step in as apologist for a decade of bad faith? The mistrust is deserved and most of us won’t be as wowed by technology into easy trust as Miguel has been.

Other news:

✍ OSI Opposes BBC DRM

§ The Open Source Initiative Board has added OSI to the list of organizations asking that the BBC not be allowed to add digital restriction measures to digital broadcasts in the United Kingdom. The BBC’s request to do so is being reviewed by the UK regulator, OfCOM, and OSI is supporting the position statement from the UK’s Open Rights Group and encouraging others to do likewise.

Read more…

☞ Broken Democracy

  • The Berlusconi regime in Italy has achieved a longevity that many thought was impossible in Italian politics, but it seems one of the mechanisms it has used rests at a convergence of politics and media power that is of questionable morality. It’s bad enough having Murdock and Fox as potential kingmakers across the world, but in Italy the connection is right in hands of the head of state.
  • I’ve never trusted the Verisign-style pay-to-prove hierarchical approach to internet security and the fact this box is so freely available settles it. This box means you can’t even trust https to protect you on the web.
  • The BBC want to add DRM (digital restriction measures) to UK television broadcasts. Given we have all already paid for whatever they broadcast becuase of the license fee, and given that most of what’s broadcast is available from elsewhere, this is about controlling consumers and not about protecting rights-holders. You’ll note that control of UK consumers is being handed to an unaccountable offshore consortium. It’s also another assault on the use of open source software since it will take a legal entity to get licensed by the offshore quango. I’ve signed up to the text ORG are submitting to OfCOM and suggest you consider doing so too if you’re in the UK.
  • There’s a delicious irony about the crusty old BCS turning down a petition for debate about their “modernisation” plans (in my view more about connecting with corporate sponsors) becuase the petition was conducted on the internet and not on paper. I hope their new President is suitably embarrassed and will make sure it doesn’t happen again (the anachronistic behaviour, I mean, not the squashing of dissent which I sadly anticipate continuing).

☞ Public Statements

  • I’m honoured to have been re-elected to the OpenSolaris Governing Board, delighted that the new Constitution has been adopted and humbled to have received the most first-preference votes. It is going to be a challenging year of change for the new OGB.
  • Intelligent discussion from Mako on Stallman’s latest essay on Software as a Service. Note especially that Stallman’s usage of SaaS is a special usage and we should not assume his condemnation of the concept extends to all, or even most uses. It does, however, extend to most things Google offers.
  • It had to happen eventually. Maybe it was the insulting performance from the European Commission’s negotiator that finally provoked someone to break the ring of silence. The draft reveals just how much negotiation is left to do, as well as plenty of horrors about the starting assumptions of the negotiators.
    (tags: ACTA)
  • Maybe there is more to sushi (and laverbread) than just concentrated delicious.
%d bloggers like this: