The Open Rights Group is the UK's answer to America's Electronic Frontier Foundation. A small but energetic staff works on a range of important campaigns concerning your freedoms in the digital domain, under the oversight of a volunteer Board (of which I am a member) and with guidance from a glittering Advisory Council.
If you've read my column much, you've already seen the results of their work. Their most recent campaign is about the need for a parody exception to UK copyright law, and they are concerned about ACTA, privacy issues, and much more. They campaign for the freedoms that make open source software development possible, so I am a staunch supporter.
I mention all this because their annual conference is coming up soon. ORGCon 2012 will be held in London at the University of Westminster on March 24th. The agenda is interesting and inclusive and the admission fee is reasonable. I'm told that the tickets are selling well so it's probably smart to grab one soon if it interests you.
This year, ORGCon has lined up some of the most important influencers of today's digital rights arena as speakers. They include US legal scholar, author and campaigner Lawrence Lessig, whose books on copyright in the digital age were formative for me. His book "Free Culture" for example explained the way the technical accident of digital usage involving a copy of the media accidentally allowed the digital copyright industry to form. Lessig is famous for his stunning and compelling rapid-fire presentation style as well as for a willingness to unblinkingly speak truth to power.
Also speaking is Cory Doctorow, now an adopted son of the UK and a successful author. His book "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" influentially coined the term "whuffie" to describe an economy driven by social reputation rather than money. He's subsequently been a crucial thought leader, not least with his darkly prophetic for-teens-but-actually-for-adults book "Little Brother", which foresaw of Anonymous and the Occupy movement. He writes regularly for The Guardian and his explanations of DRM and the problems of today's copyright and patent legislation are probably the best anywhere (yes, even here!).
Other speakers include Wendy Seltzer, a former EFF lawyer who founded the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse at Harvard's Berkman Center. They catalogue and publish details of the use of copyright, patent and trademark law to chill free speech and innovation. Without them, it would be easy to believe that things like the Digital Economy Bill and were purely about protecting musicians, rather than a tool to suppress competition and customer choice.
Overall, I'm expecting a lively and informative day with input from some of the best minds in the area of digital rights. I hope I'll see you there!