You’re invited to our copyright maker party

Y U No Like meme with the caption "Y EU No Like Memes?"

EU plans to reform copyright law threaten creativity and free expression on the internet, placing serious restrictions on the ability of ordinary users to create, share and remix memes, GIFs and other forms of culture. Come along to our free Maker Party at Centrala in Digbeth on Tuesday 22 November at 6pm to make illicit digital culture with artist Antonio Roberts (@hellocatfood) and learn more about what you can do to achieve real, progressive changes in copyright.

Continue reading You’re invited to our copyright maker party

Can your memes and animated GIFs stop the Investigatory Powers Bill?

Investigatory Powers Bill meme shared by academic Paul Bernal on Twitter

Last week, the Home Office published its revised Investigatory Powers Bill (AKA the Snooper’s Charter) less than three weeks after receiving widespread criticism from no fewer than three separate parliamentary committees.

Chances are, if you’ve visited the Open Rights Group Birmingham you know and care about this already. The problem is, how many of your friends and family who aren’t into digital rights/politics/human rights  first of all know about what the government is up to, let alone are committed to stopping them?

Email your MP today!

Right now, the campaign is focused on asking supporters to email their MPs about the Investigatory Powers Bill. The hope is that if MPs receive enough emails from their consituents expressing concerns over the bill, they will be more likely to carefully consider the bill and not simply nod it through.

If you’ve not done so already, please email your MP today! Open Rights Group has created an online tool for contacting your MP as well as some suggestions for what to say in your email.

Join us next Wednesday (16 March) for art against the IP Bill

As important as it is to email your MP about the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPBill), it can be a little dull. Given the mindboggling array of digital technology at our disposal, and open Rights Group’s base at Birmingham Open Media, surely we can do better than email?

For that reason, we’ve decided to hold a special ‘Art Against the IPBill’ session next Wednesday (16 March). Please sign up via our ORG Birmingham Meetup page.

Investigatory Powers Bill meme shared by academic Paul Bernal on Twitter
Investigatory Powers Bill meme shared by academic Paul Bernal (@PaulBernalUK) on Twitter

Think memes, animated GIFs, looping videos, audio storytelling and anything else that will get across all that is wrong about the IP Bill. Liberty have produced a very good analyis called the IP Bill: the good, the good, the bad and the downright scary but I can’t help but feel it’s missing a LOLcat.

Bring along anything you think will help you create. This could be your trusty laptop, tablet or phone. Alternatively, you might like to go old school and work with a pen and a pad.

We’re hoping to have some fully paid-up artists from Birmingham Open Media and beyond to help inspire us with their creativity. If you’re an artist and you’d like to get involved, please do get in touch or simply drop in on the night.

Looking forward to seeing you next Wednesday. And in the meantime, please don’t forget to email your MP.

Please RSVP for the session via the ORG Birmingham Meetup page

Has the science and technology committee struck a blow against the Investigatory Powers Bill?

Screenshot of House of Commons science and technology committee report on the Investigatory Powers Bill

Earlier this week, the House of Commons science and technology committee published a highly critical report on the bill, with its chair, Nicola Blackwood MP commenting:

The current lack of clarity within the draft Investigatory Powers Bill is causing concern amongst businesses. There are widespread doubts over the definition, not to mention the definability, of a number of the terms used in the draft Bill. The Government must urgently review the legislation so that the obligations on the industry are clear and proportionate.

In particular, the report highlights the following problems:

  • The feasibility of collecting and storing Internet Connection Records ICRs – including the very real problem of keeping these highly personal records from (non state-sanctioned) hackers.
  • Anxiety amongst communication  providers over the ability to use effective encryption, which Blackwood recognises is “important in providing the secure services on the internet we all rely on“. The committee particularly wants the government to provide greater clarity over the status of end-to-end encrypted communications, where decryption might not be possible by a communications provider that had not added the original encryption.
  • Concerns amongst certain communications over ‘equipment interference’. For some providers, such as Mozilla (the makers of Firefox), this concern appears to stem from a genuine concern for its users’ privacy and the integrity of the internet. For other providers, the concern is more about how a perception of hacking could hurt their competitiveness in a global market for services.
  • Uncertainty over costs. Coverage of the committee’s report has downplayed the risk associated with spiralling implementation costs, both for government and businesses. At last cost, the Home Secretary has put the cost of implementing the new ICR system at £247 million but the report notes that costs are likely to change (i.e. rise), given the uncertainty and rapid pace of technological change.

It’s worth noting that the committee’s remit was purely to look at the technical feasibility of the government’s proposals and how these might affect communications businesses, not whether the communications monitoring provisions or whether they are proportionate to the threats they are intended to deal with. These issues are expected to be addressed by the joint committe Joint Committee established to scrutinise the draft Bill as a whole.

I believe the criticisms levelled at the bill in this report are significant for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, by focusing solely on the technical feasibility of implementing the bill, it manages to side-step the highly polarised debate between privacy and security advocates. This report says, irrespective of your views on the merits of expanded monitoring of communications, you should be concerned as a citizen and taxpayer about the feasibility of implementing the government’s plans at anything approaching a sensible level of expenditure.

Secondly, by holding up the prospect that the Investigatory Powers Bill will do real harm to the growing UK tech sector, the report will hopefully encourage the government to modify its approach, if only to protect its supposed reputation for business confidence.

Both these signals – questions over the feasability of implementation and the likely damage to the UK’s growing tech sector – will not  in itself be enough to stop the Investigatory Powers Bill becoming law, but it’s a start.

The Joint Committee is due to deliver its full report on the Investigatory Powers Bill no later than 17 February. It will be interesting to see whether this committee takes a similarly critical stance on the merits of expanded monitoring provisions and the limited amount of time the committee was given to scrutinise the bill.

Cost of Investigatory Powers Bill could undermine UK Tech sector – full details of science and technology committee report

Science and Technology Committee of Parliament slams Snoopers’ Charter – Open Rights Group’s reaction to the committee’s report

This post was originally published on the personal blog of Open Rights Group Birmingham organiser, Francis Clarke. You can follow Francis on Twitter @francisclarke.