Aaron Swartz and the Open Access movement

In January this year, young programmer and open society evangelist Aaron Swartz killed himself at the age of 26. As someone who had helped create RSS, developed Reddit, and been a huge force in recent Internet campaigns against the US SOPA and PIPA bills, his death was a huge blow to digital rights supporters.

Data protection under massive lobby attack

An unprecedented lobby effort is threatening to derail changes to data protection laws aimed at giving you new rights over your data. Lobbyists from the USA and Europe are shouting extremely loudly in an attempt to water down new regulations, which they fear will cost them money.

How to lock up a market: legally

It’s January, and with luck you have lots of new toys to play with. Maybe you’ll have a new games console, a phone or iPad. Perhaps you’ll have bought some software with them, downloaded directly through a curated store.

A year in Digital Rights

Some years you look back and think, thank God that’s over. You wonder how on earth industry lobbyists and ignorant, lazy politicians are allowed to decide the fate of our digital rights, and how they can justify the erosion of free speech and privacy that their policies will cause.

Careless talk costs

A spate of arrests since 2010 has landed around seven people in court or gaol for sending shocking remarks on the Internet. These “social media trials” have centred on individuals sending “grossly offensive” Tweets or Facebook updates. They have been prosecuted under Section 127a of the Communications Act, and the sentences have left many of us wondering exactly what might land us in trouble with the law: merely for expressing opinions that other people find offensive.

Police and “thieves” – copyright trolls

Late in the evening, a policeman knocks on the door. He presents you with a warrant to search your house and seize your computers: but particularly those belonging to your student son.

Digital Economy Act: back from the grave

In the dying days of the Labour government, Lord Mandelson ushered in a law to allow Internet users to be cut off for receiving mere allegations of copyright infringement. In a foretaste of the later protests against SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA, this offensive piece of legislation became the focus of widespread Internet protests.

Bruce Willis: digital assets

Rumours circulated, were reported in the Mail, Sun and Guardian that Bruce Willis wanted to sue Apple over his downloads. It wasn't true, but there is a kernel of fact: you really cannot legally pass on your digital music collection in your will.

Internet filtering

According to Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail, ISPs are “nothing less than online pornographers” who “are in effect making themselves complicit in child sexual abuse”.

These statements are being taken very seriously at the highest levels of government. The media and politicians are talking about “forcing” ISPs to “block porn” so that adults must “opt in”. As the Daily Mail says:

Preposterously, ministers argue that requiring web users to opt in to…

Pirate Bay block

People get worried when censorship rears its head. Censorship is a pretty negative and blunt response. It implies that the censor does not trust you to make your own decisions. No form of censorship is ever fully effective, so we all know that the unwanted activity will carry on regardless. And the target of censorship will look like a victim, and is likely to become a cause célèbre.

The UK blocking of the Pirate Bay has followed this pattern. Even before the blocks were underway, the site had a surge of traffic; mirrors appeared, and in particular, the Pirate Party’s UK mirror tpb.pirateparty.org.uk started to draw more traffic. The mirror also places their party’s website under threat of being blocked,…

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