UK Digital Rights: Make Your Pledge

by Jono Bacon

You know, we Open Source types tend to bang on a fair bit about rights. If it is not the rights associated with free software, it is the rights to free media with the Creative Commons, and then, with some tired gusts of air, we blurt out our rights associated with software patents, the overreach of copyright, the abuse of technology to invade privacy, the protection of free speech, and the protection of open knowledge. These rights affect everyone, but despite our objections, some people and organisations just want to trample on them anyway.

A while back I headed down to London to the OpenTech event in which a number of people had gathered to talk about digital media and Open Source. While there, I noted a deep undercurrent of discussion about digital rights. Aside from the notable Cory Doctorow and the fantastically insane Danny O'Brian, most of the delegates seemed to be engaged in some form of discussion about digital rights while lurking around the corridors. Danny had proposed earlier in the day that if people just paid a fiver a month (thats five English pounds for those of you not living on our isle), we could have a digital rights organisation with a suitably plump wallet to put some up some barriers to some of these people with little regard for our rights. An organisation such as this in the UK would be key in protecting these rights that are the subject of the aforementioned banging on.

A little while later I was milling around the foyer of the event minding my own business when Danny came up with a grin on his face, pinched my arm and told me he had set up a Pledgebank Pledge for such an organisation. Off went the sign-up request and I was rather chuffed to be the very first name on the list. Although I genuinely hoped the organisation would be founded and someone would wrestle that fiver from my bank account, there was a distinct possibility that it wouldn't, and it would just be another great idea lost in the ether.

For the pledge to be successful, my name needed to be joined by 999 other names. Thats right, 1000 people needed to sign up for this thing to kick off; a lot of arms to be pinched. Thats a lot of names, and a lot of fivers. Well, through a series of mind bending jumps and feverish work on behalf of the team behind the pledge, they currently have 979 people signed up to an organisation now called the Open Rights Group. They are so close to hitting the big 1000 that you can practically hear their teeth vibrating. So what are you waiting for, get over and sign up!

Eating your own dogfood

Many of you will be reading this because you have a love of Open Source, not only because you believe in the technology and the community, but also the ethics and rights that this incredible new culture has afforded us. As a consultant I have experienced cases from large organisations right down to one man and his dog finding something valuable in Open Source, and the very real and human impact this has on all of these individuals is what makes Open Source and the Creative Commons much more than just ones and zeros; it actually enables people.

The Open Rights Group is essential for not only providing an intelligent and reasoned defence of our rights in the UK, but to also set a standard for digital rights advocacy and the execution of this advocacy with a reasoned method, free from zealotry. So, to find out what your fiver gets you, go and check out their website and a rather good wikipedia page summarising what they intend to do. Then, go and pledge your fiver and support this important group.

So what do you think? Are you going to do your bit? Do you have any thoughts on UK digital rights?