Open Rights Group

The Open Rights Group (ORG) is a UK-based organisation that works to preserve digital rights and freedoms by campaigning on digital rights issues and by fostering a community of grassroots activists. It campaigns on numerous issues including mass surveillance, internet filtering and censorship, and intellectual property rights.

Open Rights Group
Formation2005, UK
TypeNon-profit organisation
PurposeLaw, Advocacy, Digital Rights
HeadquartersLondon, England
  • United Kingdom


Protect your bits
Open Rights Group poster

The organisation was started by Danny O'Brien, Cory Doctorow, Ian Brown, Rufus Pollock, James Cronin, Stefan Magdalinski, Louise Ferguson and Suw Charman after a panel discussion at Open Tech 2005.[1] O'Brien created a pledge on PledgeBank, placed on 23 July 2005, with a deadline of 25 December 2005: "I will create a standing order of 5 pounds per month to support an organisation that will campaign for digital rights in the UK but only if 1,000 other people will too." The pledge reached 1000 people on 29 November 2005.[2][3] The Open Rights Group was launched at a "sell-out" meeting in Soho, London.[4][5]


The group has made submissions to the All Party Internet Group (APIG) inquiry into digital rights management[6][7] and the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property.[8][9]

The group was honoured in the 2008 Privacy International Big Brother Awards alongside No2ID, Liberty, Genewatch UK and others, as a recognition of their efforts to keep state and corporate mass surveillance at bay.[10]

In 2010 the group worked with 38 Degrees[11] to oppose the introduction of the Digital Economy Act, which was passed in April 2010.[12]


  • To collaborate with other digital rights and related organisations.
  • To nurture a community of campaigning volunteers, from grassroots activists to technical and legal experts.
  • To preserve and extend traditional civil liberties in the digital world.
  • To provide a media clearinghouse, connecting journalists with experts and activists.
  • To raise awareness in the media of digital rights abuses.

Areas of interest

Cory Doctorow talks at ORGCon 2012 about the UK Government’s Communications Data Bill 2012

The organisation, though focused on the impact of digital technology on the liberty of UK citizens, operates with an apparently wide range of interests within that category. Its interests include:[13][14]

Access to knowledge

Free speech and censorship

Government and democracy

Privacy, surveillance and censorship


ORG has a paid staff,[15] whose members include:

  • Jim Killock (Executive Director)
  • Javier Ruiz Diaz (Campaigner)

Former staff include Suw Charman-Anderson and Becky Hogge, both Executive Directors, e-voting coordinator Jason Kitcat, campaigner Peter Bradwell, grassroots campaigner Katie Sutton and administrator Katerina Maniadaki.[16] The group's patron is Neil Gaiman.[17] As of February 2011 they have 22,000 supporters of which 1,400 are paying contributors[18]

Advisory council and board of directors

In addition to staff members and volunteers, there is an advisory panel of over thirty members, and a Board of Directors, which oversees the group's work, staff, fundraising and policy.[19] The current board members are:

In January 2015, the Open Rights Group announced the formation of a Scottish Advisory Council which will be handling matters relating to Scottish digital rights and campaigns. The Advisory Council is made up of:

From the existing UK Advisory Council:

And from the Open Rights Group Board:

  • Milena Popova
  • Owen Blacker
  • Simon Phipps

One of the first projects is to raise awareness and opposition to the Scottish Identity Database.


ORGCON was the first ever conference dedicated to digital rights in the UK,[20] marketed as "a crash course in digital rights". It was held for the first time in 2010 at City University in London and included keynote talks from Cory Doctorow, politicians and similar pressure groups including Liberty, NO2ID and Big Brother Watch. ORGCON has since been held in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2017.

See also


  1. ^ Open Tech 2005 schedule Archived 15 December 2005 at the Wayback Machine, 23 July 2005
  2. ^ Archived 29 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine, 23 July 2005 – 25 December 2005
  3. ^ Getting out more Archived 7 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Danny O'Brien's blog post floating the idea and advertising the pledge
  4. ^ ORG digital rights event update, Open Rights Group blog, 29 November 2005
  5. ^ Invitation to attend ‘Digital Rights in the UK: Your Rights, Your Issues’, Open Rights Group blog, 16 November 2005
  6. ^ MPs in digital downloads warning, BBC News Online, 4 June 2006
  7. ^ ORG submission to the APIG inquiry into DRM, Open Rights Group wiki, 3 January 2006
  8. ^ Chancellor announces intellectual property review Archived 4 December 2005 at the Wayback Machine, HM Treasury press release, 2 December 2005
  9. ^ ORG submission to the Gowers Review, Open Rights Group wiki, 30 May 2006
  10. ^ Big Brother Awards UK 2008, 12 December 2008
  11. ^ "Controversial UK anti-piracy law finally passed". BBC. 5 April 2010. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  12. ^ "Controversial UK anti-piracy law finally passed". Telecoms Europe. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
  13. ^ ORG issues and interests Archived 9 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Open Rights Group website, last visited 30 May 2008
  14. ^ Digital rights issues Archived 5 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Open Rights Group website, last visited 30 May 2008
  15. ^ "Open Rights Group Staff". Open Rights Group. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  16. ^ "Open Rights Group Former Staff". Open Rights Group. Archived from the original on 21 June 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  17. ^ "Open Rights Group Patron". Open Rights Group. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  18. ^ Hargreaves Review of IP and Growth Archived 15 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine "Open Rights Group", 22 February 2011
  19. ^ "Open Rights Group Board". Open Rights Group. Retrieved 4 Aug 2012.
  20. ^ "ORGCon: London, July 24 – book now!". BoingBoing. 16 June 2010. Retrieved 13 July 2010.

External links

Access Info Europe

Access Info Europe is a Madrid-based group that campaigns for access to information in Europe.

It was formed in June 2006 by experts in access to information, with the aim of promoting the right of access to information in Europe. Access Info is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization.

The core of Access-Info Europe raison d'être is the belief that access to information is a basic human right, and the idea that this is critical for participatory government decision-making and accountability.

Alan Cox

Alan Cox (born 22 July 1968) is a British computer programmer who has been a key figure in the development of Linux. He maintained the 2.2 branch of the Linux kernel and continues to be heavily involved in the development of the Linux kernel, an association that dates back to 1991. He lives in Swansea, Wales, where he lived with his wife Telsa Gwynne, who died in 2015. He graduated with a BSc in Computer Science from Swansea University in 1991 and received an MBA from the same university in 2005.

Alec Muffett

Alec David Edward Muffett (born April 22, 1968) is an Anglo-American internet-security evangelist, architect, and software engineer. He is principally known for his work on Crack, the original Unix password cracker, and for the CrackLib password-integrity testing library; he is also active in the open-source software community.

Becky Hogge

Becky Hogge (born 1979 in London) is a UK-based music and technology writer and the first full-time executive director of the Open Rights Group, resigning in 2008. She was previously the managing editor, and then the technology director and technology commissioning editor for During her time with openDemocracy she helped establish the China environment website, along with editor Isabel Hilton. She is a former board member of the Open Knowledge Foundation. and a member of its advisory board.

As a writer and commentator, she covers the global politics of technology, open source, and intellectual property rights. She writes a weekly technology column for the New Statesman and openDemocracy and has also written for The Guardian, and Prospect, In 2011 she published a book about the hacker culture entitled Barefoot into Cyberspace: Adventures in search of techno-Utopia.

Ben Laurie

Ben Laurie is a software engineer, protocol designer and cryptographer. He is a founding director of The Apache Software Foundation, a core team member of OpenSSL, a member of the Shmoo Group, a director of the Open Rights Group, Director of Security at The Bunker Secure Hosting, Trustee and Founder-member of FreeBMD, Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University's Computer Laboratory, a committer at FreeBSD and Advisory Board member of works for Google in London on various projects, currently focused on Certificate transparency.Ben wrote Apache-SSL, the basis of most SSL-enabled versions of the Apache HTTP Server and is a co-author of OpenPGP:SDK. He developed the MUD Gods, which was innovative in including online creation in its endgame.Ben also has written several articles, papers and books, many of which can be found on his home page or his blog and is interested in ideal knots and their applications.

Campaign Against Censorship

The Campaign Against Censorship (CAC) is a non-party political pressure group that opposes censorship and promotes freedom of expression in the United Kingdom. The group is based in Fareham, England. It was formerly named the Defence of Literature and the Arts Society (DLAS). It was founded in 1968 with the publisher John Calder as a prime mover behind it as a direct result of the Last Exit to Brooklyn novel publication trial. In 1976 it sent a delegation to see the Home Secretary to argue that "films are subject to unjust discrimination and should be placed on the same legal basis as books and plays as far as content is concerned", and that "the common law offences on indecency should come to an end".In 1983, the group was relaunched as the Campaign Against Censorship.

The guiding principles of the Campaign are:

The right to obtain and impart knowledge

Freedom from censorship

Freedom for creative artists to present their perceptions, interpretations and ideas

Freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, race, politics or religion.Officers of the CAC are Edward Goodman (Chair) a lawyer and former local councillor, Dr Nigel Meek (Publications and Website Officer) and Mary Hayward (Hon. Secretary/Treasurer).

They have informal links with Liberty, Backlash and the Open Rights Group. In recent years, the CAC has also made formal submissions to the Deputy Prime Minister’s 2010 Law Review and the 2013 proposals on press regulation. In December 2014, CAC absorbed the remnant of the late David Webb's National Campaign for the Reform of the Obscene Publications Acts.

Caspar Bowden

Caspar Pemberton Scott Bowden (19 August 1961 – 9 July 2015) was a British privacy advocate, formerly chief privacy adviser at Microsoft. Styled as "an independent advocate for information privacy rights, and public understanding of privacy research in computer science", he was on the board of the Tor anonymity service. Having predicted US mass surveillance programmes such as PRISM from open sources, he gathered renewed attention after the Snowden leaks vindicated his warnings.

Internet censorship in the United Kingdom

Internet censorship in the United Kingdom is conducted under a variety of laws, judicial processes, administrative regulations and voluntary arrangements. It is achieved by blocking access to sites as well as the use of laws that criminalise publication or possession of certain types of material. These include English defamation law, the Copyright law of the United Kingdom, regulations against incitement to terrorism and child pornography.

Kevin Marks

Kevin Marks is on the Advisory Council of the Open Rights Group, a UK-based Digital Rights campaigning organization and is an Open Web Advocate. He is one of the founders of Microformats.

Marks was listed at #13 in The Daily Telegraph's 50 most influential Britons in Technology.Marks was Vice President of Web Services at BT. He became Principal Engineer for Technorati after working for both Apple and the BBC. At the TechCrunch event Realtime Stream Crunchup he announced that he would be joining BT to work together with JP Rangaswami. He worked at from 2011 to 2013 as their VP of Open Cloud Standards.

At the first BloggerCon, Marks discussed the power curve as it applies to weblogs:

The net changes the power law of the media curve. If you look at relative popularity on the web, using something like Technorati, you get a power curve that goes all the way down gradually, to the bottom where you see pages that got just a single click. If you look at popularity in the "real" world — best-selling books, or top music — the power curve drops like a stone from a very high level. That's because in order to get a book published, or a piece of music recorded, you have to convince somebody that you're going to sell a million copies. You end up in a zero-sum game, where people pour enormous resources into being the number one, because number two is only half as good. The promise of the net is that the power of all those little links can outweigh the power of the top ten.

In 2003, Marks was an early experimenter with and contributor to the technologies that became popular under the names podcasting and iPodder in 2004.

At the 4 October 2003 BloggerCon, Marks demonstrated a program that downloaded RSS-enclosure audio files and transferred them to Apple's iTunes music player, which could then synchronize them onto an iPod. In his weblog post from the conference that day, Marks mentioned discussing the program with Adam Curry, who also blogged about their chat the next day.Kevin previously worked for Google as a Developer Advocate on OpenSocial.

Lilian Edwards

Lilian Edwards is a Scottish UK-based academic and frequent speaker on issues of Internet law, intellectual property and artificial intelligence. She is on the Advisory Board of the Open Rights Group and the Foundation for Internet Privacy Research and is the Professor of Law, Innovation and Society at Newcastle Law School at Newcastle University.

Myles Jackman

Myles Jackman is an English lawyer who specialises in defending cases related to pornography.Jackman was born in 1974 or 1975, at Basildon Hospital, where his father, a consultant radiologist and his mother, Susan, a radiology technician, worked and met. Jackman was a boarder at The King's School, Canterbury. His father died when Jackman was 18. He read law at the University of the West of England in Bristol, and was diagnosed as dyslexic when aged 37.He was the defence solicitor in the landmark R v Peacock case, in 2012, which was seen as a test of the Obscene Publications Act 1959. He also successfully defended Simon Walsh, in another 2012 case, seen as a test of Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. During the latter trial he was the first acting solicitor allowed to live tweet from a British trial. The same year, he was awarded the Junior Lawyer of the Year Excellence Award by the Law Society of England and Wales.In March 2016, he was appointed Legal Director of the Open Rights Group.He also writes as a journalist on matters related to pornography and the law, and provides pro bono advice to the pressure group Backlash.His portrait, showing him in a Pikachu costume, has been painted by the artist Penny Tristram.

National Health Service Central Register (Scotland)

The National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR) is a Scottish Government database accessible to public bodies approved by the Scottish Parliament. The register was established in the early 1950s to facilitate the transfer of patients between Health Board areas or across borders within the countries of the United Kingdom. However, its role has expanded over the decades and it now also provides Scottish local authorities with a Unique Citizen Reference Number or UCRN used to identify people on their own databases.In 2006, the Scottish Government and the National Records of Scotland made a major expansion of the applications of the NHSCR by changing regulations with section 57 of the Local Electoral Administration and Registration Services (Scotland) Act 2006. In 2015, the Scottish Government proposed expanding access to the NHSCR to more than 100 additional public bodies. The associated consultation received 302 responses. The proposed expansion was criticised by the Open Rights Group, who believed it may breach data protection rules and human rights and resembles a national identity system. In February 2017, the Scottish Government informed the Scottish Parliament that it did not intend to proceed with the proposals.

Open Genealogy Alliance

The Open Genealogy Alliance (OGA) is a UK-based project launched by three partners: the Open Rights Group, Open Knowledge Foundation and FreeBMD. OGA is currently researching the genealogy sector and the copyright status of digitized public domain documents. The project was announced on 2 March 2011 by the Open Rights Group.

Open admissions

Open admissions, or open enrollment, is a type of unselective and noncompetitive college admissions process in the United States in which the only criterion for entrance is a high school diploma or a certificate of attendance or General Educational Development (GED) certificate.

Open university

An open university is a university with an open-door academic policy, with minimal or no entry requirements. Open universities may employ specific teaching methods, such as open supported learning or distance education. However, not all open universities focus on distance education, nor do distance-education universities necessarily have open admission policies.

Simon Phipps (programmer)

Simon Phipps is a computer scientist and web and open source advocate.

Phipps was instrumental in IBM's involvement in the Java programming language, founding IBM's Java Technology Center. He left IBM for Sun Microsystems in 2000, taking leadership of Sun's open source programme from Danese Cooper. Under Phipps, most of Sun's core software was released under open source licenses, including Solaris and Java.Phipps was not hired into Oracle as part of the acquisition of Sun Microsystems and his final day was March 8, 2010 when the two entities combined. Following Sun, he spent a year as Chief Strategy Officer of identity startup ForgeRock before becoming an independent consultant. In 2015 he briefly joined Wipro Technologies as director of their open source advisory practice.Phipps was President of the Open Source Initiative until 2015 when he stepped down in preparation for the end of his Board term in 2016,, and was re-elected in 2017 and re-appointed President by the Board in September 2017. He is also currently a board member of the Open Rights Group and The Document Foundation and on the advisory board of Open Source for America. He has served on a number of advisory boards for other projects, including as CEO of the MariaDB Foundation, and at the GNOME Foundation, OpenSolaris, OpenJDK, and OpenSPARC.He appeared as a guest on episodes 39 , 113 and 337 of FLOSS Weekly and as a regular co-host, such as on episodes 124 and 201.

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson (born 15 April 1971) is the former Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, a campaign group based in London. She is also a journalist, social software consultant, blogger and public speaker. On 15 February 2008 she married Kevin Anderson. Named one of the "50 most influential Britons in technology" by The Daily Telegraph, she has also worked to gain recognition for other women in technological fields, including by founding Ada Lovelace Day.

Web blocking in the United Kingdom

The precise number of websites blocked in the United Kingdom is unknown. Blocking techniques vary from one Internet service provider (ISP) to another with some sites or specific URLs blocked by some ISPs and not others. Websites and services are blocked using a combination of data feeds from private content-control technology companies, government agencies, NGOs, court orders in conjunction with the service administrators who may or may not have the power to unblock, additionally block, appeal or recategorise blocked content.

Wendy M. Grossman

Wendy M. Grossman (born January 26, 1954 in New York City) is a journalist, blogger, and folksinger.

Grossman graduated from Cornell University in 1975 and Riverdale Country School in 1971. She was a full-time folksinger from 1975–83 and her folk album Roseville Fair was released in 1980, and MP3s from it are available on her website. She also played on Archie Fisher's 1976 LP The Man With a Rhyme.

In 1987, she founded the magazine The Skeptic in the United Kingdom and edited it for two years, resuming the editorship from 1999 to 2001. As founder and editor, she has appeared on numerous UK TV and radio programmes.

Her credits since 1990 include work for Scientific American, The Guardian, and the Daily Telegraph, as well as New Scientist, Wired and Wired News, and The Inquirer for which she wrote a regular weekly net.wars column. That column continues in NewsWireless and on her own site every Friday. She was a columnist for Internet Today from July 1996 until it closed in April 1997, and together with Dominic Young ran the Fleet Street Forum on CompuServe UK in the mid-1990s. She also sometimes writes about tennis.

She edited an anthology of interviews with leading computer industry figures taken from the pages of the British computer magazine Personal Computer World. Entitled Remembering the Future, it was published in January 1997 by Springer Verlag. Her 1998 book net.wars was one of the first to have its full text published on the Web. She was a member of the external advisory board of the Intellectual Property and Law Centre at Edinburgh University (the board was disbanded after the centre became established). She was president of the Cornell Folk Song Club, the oldest university-affiliated, student-run folk song club in the US, from 1973 to 1975.

She sits on the executive committee of the Association of British Science Writers and the Advisory Councils of the Open Rights Group and Privacy International. In February 2011 Grossman was elected as a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.In 2013, Grossman was the winner of the Enigma Award, part of the BT Information Security Journalism Awards, "for her dedication and outstanding contribution to information security journalism, recognising her extensive writing on the subject for several publications over a number of years".

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