Update! Becky says that the sainted Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust have offered up to 10,000UKP of matching funds for every supporter ORG gets — so if you join for a fiver a month, you’ll be giving ORG ten pounds to play with!
It’s hard to believe that it’s two years since the Open Rights Group got its first public support from a thousand British Net pioneers. Flicking through their annual report today, it feels like they’ve been around for decades.
What ORG’s staff has done is astounding. When we first sketched out what could be done with a thousand people’s fivers, we thought we could just about pay to have someone clueful on the phone 9-5. That would be enough: redirecting uhh, clue-misdirected journalists to the unheard-from Net users, and real tech experts (not just blowhards) who could explain without the usual fearmongering or special interest hype.
Honestly, I felt that if we just managed to have someone next to the music industry spokesman next time a TV show swallowed the “Internet is full of pirates and criminals, and must be smacked into obeyance” line, ORG would have paid its way.
Instead, here’s what ORG has done with its scant resources. After two years, it’s not just a media clearing house, although it does that too. It battled a celebrity-studded publicity campaign that sought to extend copyright terms. It fought the hype with with clear facts and economics, and won – the first time that has happened anywhere.
Its advice to the Gowers report on Intellectual Property helped give the British Government the most progressive outline of future IP policies in the world.
It organized Britain’s first ever volunteer analysis of electronic voting, and showed that bad e-voting counts could have changed who won in Scotland: a revelation that still shocks me.
Right now, is planning to advise British businesses on how to work with the new norms of copyright. And to guide it, it’s assembled an amazing group of British-based advisory board members, including the coder of Apache’s SSL support, one of Linux’s key figures, the co-founder of the UK’s first commercial Internet provider, and the drummer off of “Blur” – match the names to the reputations. They really are involved in the strategic and technical decisions that ORG makes every day – and it shows.
If you want just a recent example of the sort of in-depth knowledge ORG already shows, check out this GrokLaw interview with Becky Hogge, ORG’s Executive Director. Detailed, smart comments on the BBC iPlayer, a messy but vital part of the UK online debate right now. Now imagine that kind of knowledge being inserted, behind the scenes, in press rooms, Whitehall offices, and TV studios, day in, day out.
Part of the reason it’s been so successful is because of the incredible input of ORG supporters. It’s hard to point to the offline work this incredible team manage, but just give you a taste: If you want the most vibrant, wide-ranging, sensible discussions of IP and privacy online: subscribe to ORG-discuss, a list that has representatives of the music industry, her majesty’s sceptical press, security mavens, and free software advocates. It’s knowledgeable *and* very civil, a minor miracle in itself. You might also want to check out ORG’s equally smart wiki.
Here is where I ask you for moneySo, here’s the most amazing thing. ORG doesn’t do that on a thousand people’s fivers at all. ORG does it on less.
To get our ballpark income, ORG would have had to have converted every single one of the pledge-signers. I think we got around 50%.
So to celebrate two years, I encourage everyone to try and push the membership up to the promised one thousand. No, two thousand.
If you’re an ORG supporter, pressgang two of your friends to join. Find that online pal who is even more fanatical than you in pursuit of digital rights. Tell the blowhards on Digg or Slashdot it’s time to put their pounds where their posts are. Heck, buy one in your mum or niece’s name for Christmas: it’s their Internet too. And check whether your own membership has lapsed (It happens – *blush* mine expired earlier this year, and I missed the memo – I’m back in the black now). Just click here.
Think what ORG can do in the next two years. Think what we can do with 2000 members. Think what we can do with 20,000.
Most of all, think what will happen if we don’t do something.