Category Archives: human rights

It’s a Digital Rights Barbershop Quartet

Yes, they look like a barbershop quartet. But they're not. Francis Irving, Tom Steinberg, Simon Willison & Danny O'Brien inventing the British EFF Danny O’Brien thinks we might need a ‘digital rights’ organisation here in Britain. Something like the American EFF. He’s put his money where his mouth is and started a pledge that requires 1,000 signups by Xmas (and is about halfway there). I don’t disagree. Liberty, as hazily defined by Britain’s unwritten, common-law masterpiece of a constitution genuinely needs defending – here, now, in the time of bits – against a host of enemies, knowing and unknowing. The trouble is it’s a strange beast and it’s only nominally a constitution. In Danny’s terrific, noisy and productive session at Open Tech 2005 Saturday, Cory Doctorow – a representative, apparently, from another planet (a planet where geeks are actually quite trendy and where they have a constitution) – fell on the European Court of Human Rights, with visible relief, as a sort of Euro-Supreme Court, a court of final recourse in which troubled Euro-techies might conduct ‘impact litigation’ of the kind the EFF specialises in. Of course, he is wrong. An ancient and awkward nation like Britain is unlikely to ever provide a platform for the kind of expensive, showbiz litigation that produces new law in the US. The British EFF will need to be a very different creature and will need to be wired into our ‘Constitution. Nein Danke’ culture properly. Of course, I’d like to see the organisation that could actually do productive defensive work for liberty in digital Britain. I think a nicely-designed digital campaigning group could make a big difference and I admire Danny and his friends for getting the project going. Liberty wasn’t invented in Britain but its critical, open-minded, rational variant was. It’s only right that Britain should produce a new kind of digital campaign group. I’m looking forward to it. The picture shows Danny (on the right), actually creating the ‘British EFF’ pledge in real time straight after his session. How cool is that? Update: Danny wrote about it in The Guardian” title=”The right to digital freedom, The Guardian, 28 July 2005″ and I haven’t been able to figure out why this picture of Danny has been viewed over 600 times.