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EFF Ireland - Formation / Reformation

  • #1
    Registered Users Posts: 4,286 damien


    Every now and again chatter about creating an EFF for Ireland surfaces and ebbs away again. There's been recent discussion about it here: http://www.freestater.blogspot.com/ with links to stories as to why it is needed.

    I'd be interested to see who here would support an idea like the EFF?


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Comments



  • As you might have guessed, count me in.
    Dick O'Brien




  • <aol>Me too!</aol>




  • OK, there are a bunch of issues here.

    1. Commercial issues to do with things like software patents.

    2. Civil liberties issues. The most obvious approaching one is the national ID card, but there's also the national DNA database, data retention and other things.

    3. Things to do with Creative Commons licences.

    4. Things to do with general journalistic-type legal issues.

    These issues are all quite different, though sort-of related.

    The reason I'm going through this is because there is a variety of groups operating in this space already, and a new group would have a clear role in the middle of all of this.

    First, people who are wondering about legal stuff relating to blogging and journalistic-type issues, such as libel and interference with judicial procedures. It's just not feasible to provide this service without significant resources. By 'significant', I mean tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds per year. Sure, you can give people a few suggestions and a few pointers over email for less, but that's not really legal advice. And there's very little to it. To be honest, there's very little new in this area that your local solicitor couldn't tell you about.

    It's easy for EFF to do this in comparison. They have very substantial financial backing to bring forward or defend imortant cases. I can't see where a group in Ireland could get anything like that. but I could be wrong and would be happy to be proved so.

    Second, civil liberties issues. The ICCL work hard at this, and have worked hard to gather resources to do it. I have met Aisling Reidy who runs the shop, and she seems very concerned about the issues. They have quite a wide, general agenda, and do get criticism, but at the end of the day, they have limited resources. Maybe we should concentrate on assisting their efforts, rather than supplanting them. As an example, I am sure that the ICCL would have gone into court on the ISPs/record companies log disclosure issue, but they just don't have the resources and it isn't the top priority for them.

    Another area, commercial issues about patents. Really, the industry groups have to get their act together on this. It largely boils down to money and power. It's up to the software companies who are faced with this problem to get it together on this issue. If they aren't canny enough to keep groups like ICT Ireland on-script (they aren't), or can't form their own group, then there's not much point in expecting them to be much help to us. And at the end of the day, nothing happens without financial support.

    I'm not saying it wouldn't be good to have a group to campaign on this. I'm just saying that we have to be realistic. The financial support just isn't there.

    A final issue that was raised was CC licences and things to do with constitutional issues. There is a group in UCC working on this.

    So anyway, my conclusion:

    1. I think there should be a group, affiliated somehow to the ICCL to deal with civil liberties type issues, in particular, the national ID issue in a reasonable, measured way.

    2. I think that Industry should get its act together to deal with the IPR issues.

    3. Maybe there should be some sort of umbrella of these groups, if someone is prepared to fund it.




  • Antoin, all valid points. Might be a good way of tackling this alright, to work with those that are already working on some of the issues people want to address.

    However, as you say the ICCL are good people but I have little faith in them. For almost the past year I have been offering to help with time and skills. I have offered to redo their website, to set up discussion forums, to help with mailing lists. I have chased them about whether they wanted my help with their work and each time they tell me thanks and they'll get back to me.

    It's not just me either, Michael Everson (Yoda) has been on to them too and offered his help. They are getting back to him too since last year.

    The work the ICCL do is fantastic but I don't think they have the resources to do any of what people are looking for in the online arena. I don't think I have actually heard the ICCL comment on any kind of digital civil liberties at all.




  • The ICCL were certainly involved in organizing a visit by a speaker from Privacy International about biometrics, so it's not true to say they aren't aware of the issue. I am pretty sure I heard an ICCL rep on the radio recently talking about the DNA database issue.

    According to the website, they do have an 'e-rights' working group and a freedom of expression working group, and these are both obviously relevant to what we are talking about.

    They may not have the resources to do what people are looking for in the online arena at the moment, but neither does anybody else.

    Of course, the full solution isn't the ICCL. Industry bodies within the software industry are the key to sorting out things like software patents. Certainly the IFSO made a good effort at this. (Their weakness, in my opinion, was that they really didn't get their message into mainstream print and electronic media, unlike their opponents. But they had limited resources, so it's unfair to criticize them too much for that.) The System Administrator's Guild (SAGE) does a fair job of teasing out the practical issues around legislation, but without really setting themselves up as a lobbying organization.

    There are other options to consider. For example, there is the Irish Computer Society which is a substantial organization which might be a good forum for certain issues.


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  • forgive me if i've missed someone pointing this out already, but something similar was tried 5 years ago or so I think.

    example post i found after a brief brief search:
    http://boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?s=&threadid=144822


    I'm just pointing that out as at least some of those involved are still around and may have input & it may be worth digging up more stuff.

    Irrespective of that, you have TCAL's support.




  • More blog posts on this here here and here.




  • Contacted the ICCL to see what they cover. Seems they haven not looked into this area for ages and their E-Rights group has been disbanded. Waiting to hear back from the ICCL for clarification on what areas of the digital domain they are researching. They have some research on privacy they'll be publishing.




  • I've been researching something almost exactly along these lines for a few months (I had mentally excluded the ICCL, due to negative experiences with them in the past) after a conversation some time ago with John Naughton (http://memex.naughtons.org/). Ever since, I've been finding quite a few people interested in such an initiative, although we had also been including lobbying government on issues such as the incredibly wasteful and inefficient IT procurement procedures, which would not fall under the remit of an EFI-like body.

    Anyway, the first thing is that there are already least 5 places I could be making this comment, so it's hard to direct people who may be interested to a central point of contact/discussion. Can I suggest that someone sufficiently associated with kicking this latest initiative off (Damien, Freestater, Bernie, Adam, Antoin) nominate or create something (board, mailing list, technorati tag, something) as a cohesive place to gauge interest?

    I've posted a few initial thoughts in a comment on Antoin's blog at;

    http://www.eire.com/2005/08/04/defending-digital-rights-in-ireland/#comments

    One thing I forgot to mention and which I have not seen covered is EDRI;

    http://www.edri.org/

    EDRI is a Europe-wide organisation along the lines being discussed. Worth bearing in mind as another potential partner and source of experience. I've always found the EDRI people to be productive. EDRIGram is also a great source of information on how our neighbours are dealing with similar issues;

    http://www.edri.org/edrigram

    Oh, and count me in.




  • Got confirmation from the ICCL that they are not involved in any of the areas EFI would cover and they don't envisage to get into these areas in the near future.

    As per Antoin's suggestions I've contacted the Irish Free Software Organization and the System Administrators Guild of Ireland (both via emal) to see their thoughts on Electronic Frontier Ireland and if they want to get involved. Colm, do you speak for the Irish Citizens for Trustworthy E-voting or should I formally contact Margaret? IrelandOffline will give input too to this new group.

    As for a central place to discuss this, we can create that space once we hear back from the groups I mentioned above.


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  • SAGE-IE is complicated, right now it's going through a process of incorporation and I know that the SAGE working group has been retiscent to become lobbyists. Right now SAGE enjoys a consultative role within the Department of Justice on the Data retention issue, have had meetings with ministers and senior civil servants and so on, and are made aware of upcoming changes.

    However SAGE-IE has thus far restricted itself to informing policy on a purely technical level. So rather than saying "Data retention is bad for personal privacy", they are saying "data retention would take this many rooms of tapes. cost this exorbitant amount and require this many resources" and so on. As a member of SAGE-IE, I have to say it's a policy I agree with - as SAGE is for system administrators, not for System Administators of a particular leaning. For example, if Electronic Voting were to come in, I would hope to be able to encourage the admins of such a system to join SAGE-IE. The neutrality is valued, and sticking to their area of expertise lends a lot of credibility.

    There's a SAGE-IE in-person get-together this Tuesday, I'll make sure to bring it up and have it all discussed. But my intuition is that SAGE-IE may like to get involved in a consultative role and be happy to profer opinions on how policies affect sysadmins but would probably be unwilling to full subscribe to an EFI. I know that's what I've been consistently told by the SAGE working group.

    As for ICTE, Margaret and I are spokespersons but noone really speaks for the entire group except on the core things that have been agreed. But from knowing everyone involved, I can see a lot of people will to get involved, help out and work hard for such an organisation. I'll mail the list about how people feel about it, and how people would feel about organisational affiliation.




  • There was an EFF Ireland back in the day. IIRC DeVore was involved. Maybe ask him for advice on the matter.




  • I have asked a friend with good contacts in ICCL to check out the situation there.

    The big issue I see is funding. Where would the money come from to make this have any significant impact? A free-standing organization would need a good bit of cash to sustain it.




  • I have asked a friend with good contacts in ICCL to check out the situation there.

    Malachy Murphy the ICCL Co-chair was on to me yesterday evening and clarified it. I'll ask for his permission to quote from his email. Bottom line is ICCL are not going to be going into this area and would be happy for someone else to look after it. They have commented in the press about some of these issues only because nobody else appeared to be available.
    The big issue I see is funding. Where would the money come from to make this have any significant impact? A free-standing organization would need a good bit of cash to sustain it.

    It all depends on what the eventual group will be doing. As has been stated both ICTE and IrelandOffline are pretty much zero-funding. IrelandOffline operates almost completely online so we have sfa costs.




  • The big issue I see is funding. Where would the money come from to make this have any significant impact? A free-standing organization would need a good bit of cash to sustain it.

    You are right, funding is the major barrier involved. In order to have real impact in this field, the organisation needs to be able to handle legal cases and PR routing professionally. Neither of which are very cheap.

    I don't think that there is any magical sources of funding out there from which money may be simply divined for a good cause. There are EU initiatives for grants and so on, but they require a demonstration of ability and a prior record.

    As I see it a rough plan would be to obtain enough good will and momentum to become active with no funding. A website, mailing list, volunteer points of contact and so on can all be done for close to nothing. The next step would be bootstrap enough cash to create a bank account, incorporate as an organisation/charity, register as a friendly society. This should be achievable from personal donations. The ICCL, EFF both charge for memership, so this is one way of covering that kind of administrative budget. Realistically it is going to cost less than 1000 euro to get to that stage, which is actually reasonably advanced.

    But then the hard part. proceeding to the next steps, being able to handle cases, maybe have a premesis and so on, is expensive. By that point, grant-aid may be an option, as may be the hard-slog of persuading pro-bono legal involvement (FLAC may be a worthy contact in this area - http://www.flac.ie/).

    I'm not sure if Ireland is a big enough place to sustain this kind of operation through personal contributions alone, unless some very wealthy benefactors are found.

    But imo, it is worth concentrating on what is winnable with the resources available. Lobbying legislation for example is relatively accessible without need for much expenditure, and this is a significant area in which such an organisation could be helpful.




  • Here's some stuff from the last meeting interested parties had last year. The idea ultimately died on it's ass because in the end people couldn't be bothered their holes when it came to the crunch.

    http://beecher.ie/wiki/index.php?title=Electronic_Frontier_Ireland

    Plus three mailing lists that suffered the same end. (EFFI-ANNOUNCE, EFFI-PRIVATE and FREEDOM)

    http://lists.beecher.net/mailman/listinfo

    Let's hope this time people can build up a head of steam.

    adam




  • colmmacc wrote:
    I'll mail the list about how people feel about it, and how people would feel about organisational affiliation.

    Seems to have been met with positive responsese straight away, I've gotten offers of support and involvement from people I know are not the average all-talk wasters typical of some things. I've also gotten responses from some of the academic UCC crowd, including the potential for seminars and help from that perspective.




  • hey all -- I was involved with EFI in the olden days, too, fwiw ;) . I posted some thoughts at http://taint.org/2005/08/05/212637a.html :

    'There's been some discussion about 'an Irish EFF' recently, reminding me of the old days of Electronic Frontier Ireland in the 1990s.

    I was reminded of this by Danny O'Brien's article in The Guardian, where he notes an interesting point -- half of the effectiveness of the EFF in the US, is because they have a few full-time people sitting in an office, answering phone calls. Essentially they act as a human PBX, being the go-to guy connecting journalists to activists and experts.

    Now that is something that could really work, and is needed in Ireland, which is in the same boat as the UK in this respect; the journalists don't know who to ask for a reliable opposing opinion when the BSA, ICT Ireland, or the IRMA put out incorrect statements. It has to be someone who's always available for a quote at the drop of a hat, over the phone. From experience, this takes dedication -- and without getting paid for it, it's hard to keep the motivation going.

    IrelandOffline have done it pretty well for the telecoms issue; ICTE have done a brilliant job, the best I've seen in Europe IMO, of grabbing hold of the e-voting issue to the stage where they own it; but for online privacy, software patenting, and other high-tech-meets-society issues, there's nobody doing it that successfully.'

    To summarize: what's needed is someone willing to be the full-time "core" of EFI. That would probably take money, since it's not a single-issue thing, and I don't think anyone feels *that* strongly about all the issues that they'd be willing to take a 6-month sabbatical to run this for free... prove me wrong though! ;)




  • Apologies, but I just stumbled upon this thread.

    I am working on an LLM thesis on Privacy Law at the moment in UCC, and do a fair bit of work for epic.org; in the form of updating the Irish aspects of their "Privacy & Human Rights" book. (online @ http://www.privacyinternational.org/)

    If there is stuff happening around Cork I am more than willing to give time, or in default to draft position papers etc.




  • Hi, I'm a barrister with a particular interest in IT law and digital rights. I've written on the topic here and here , and am more than willing to get involved in an EFF/EFI organisation. If necessary (and of course, if asked) I can be the legal go-to guy. And yes, contrary to the popularly held view of my profession, I'm willing to do so free of charge.


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  • ^ That's what EFI needs. With one of those guys the org should be signed, sealed and delivered. Well done Fergal.

    adam




  • This organisation ought really to be a company limited by guarantee. That's the appropriate vehicle for something like this, which will be attempting to gather members and create and influence policy.

    I can draft up the Memorandum and Articles of Association- its mostly going to be fairly uncontroversial. The trick is just to get the right wordings for things.
    There may be some discussion of the stated purposes of the company, but precedent does suggest you draft them as widely as possible so you don't find yourself accidentally drifting outside the company's powers.

    One of the advantages of this kind of company is that you can have more than, if I recall, 50 members and not find yourself burdened with a plc's level of compliance.

    As for members, I would suggest that a very minor monthly Standing Order, of something in the order of €6 might be of use as a membership fee. It also lets people who might support the idea of an Irish Digital Rights organisation contribute, even if they can't get involved themselves. Though only if we tip over a certain threshold- no point having €36 hanging about a bank account in a forelorn fashion. Say 100 members tips us into the Standing order mode? That gives the organisation a steady montly income of €600. Not a fortune, but much better than nothing. I see the UK Pledgebank for their EFFort has already got over 700 people willing to cough up a fiver sterling a month. Though we all know that they're rolling in fivers over there.

    Would a meeting be useful?




  • Fergal, can you email me: damien (at) mulley DOT net




  • I'll add my vote to the notion that a legal entity be set up, and welcome the offers of help from the legal eagles ;-)

    Seriously, though, the 'muscle' of an EFI would (I think) need to be found in such legal and academic circles. Also worth a look is this little cheat-sheet intended for right-wing think-tanks, which could be usefully adopted by an EFI.

    Well, I'm more than willing to chip in my €10 a month. Damien, any update?




  • Setting up a legal entity seems a sensible thing to do there are a few things that should be figured out first:

    Scope
    What sort of issues will the EFI be concerned with: Copyright/Patents etc., privacy, spam laws etc. There is no point in trying to take on all these issues without sufficient staff/reliable volounteers. It isn’t enough to have a barrister or two to consider the legal issues. In the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington DC they have four or five lawyers working full time along with a scattering of interns; and they are only concerned with privacy issues. There is no point having people with no idea of the law writing emotive opinion pieces as so often happens when issues like ID cards or biometrics are on the agenda. I don’t think the Irish Judiciary are great fans of amici curiae, but if the EFI could maintain a register of legal professionals willing to fight digital rights cases on a pro bono basis they would be doing well.

    Funding
    €600 a month won’t go very far. Maybe other sources such as industry and government need to be considered closely. I know asking Microsoft et al for money wont appeal to many, but it would be a small sacrifice to get things started. I know EPIC did get corporate funding in the beginning, but phased it out as the demands stated coming in. Looking for a membership fee is slightly off-putting for many, not least militant but poor students!

    Liasons
    An Irish only organisation will be of little benefit in the quasi federal experiment that is the EU. I’m sure help would be forthcoming from BEUC, and EDRI. It would be worth trying to get strong support from the latter in particular. Many copyright proposals originate from the EU, and it would be sensible to liaise with other interested parties.

    What the EFI really needs is someone to act as manager and to route calls from the press to an appropriate person. Appropriate people might be found here: http://www.expertiseireland.com/, it lists many the academics and their area of expertise, and if some were willing to lend a hand it would be great.

    However finding the person willing to devote their time to be the point of contact might be a problem.




  • maidhc wrote:
    Setting up a legal entity seems a sensible thing to do there are a few things that should be figured out first:

    Scope
    What sort of issues will the EFI be concerned with: Copyright/Patents etc., privacy, spam laws etc. There is no point in trying to take on all these issues without sufficient staff/reliable volounteers. It isn’t enough to have a barrister or two to consider the legal issues. In the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington DC they have four or five lawyers working full time along with a scattering of interns; and they are only concerned with privacy issues. There is no point having people with no idea of the law writing emotive opinion pieces as so often happens when issues like ID cards or biometrics are on the agenda. I don’t think the Irish Judiciary are great fans of amici curiae, but if the EFI could maintain a register of legal professionals willing to fight digital rights cases on a pro bono basis they would be doing well.

    True, but this is common-sense. Given the principle of subsidiarity, the EFI could at least 'do something' (however token in its early life) on areas not currently covered by other organisations here.
    maidhc wrote:
    Funding
    €600 a month won’t go very far. Maybe other sources such as industry and government need to be considered closely. I know asking Microsoft et al for money wont appeal to many, but it would be a small sacrifice to get things started. I know EPIC did get corporate funding in the beginning, but phased it out as the demands stated coming in. Looking for a membership fee is slightly off-putting for many, not least militant but poor students!

    There should of course be a Student grade of membership. It could be productive to have a Corporate grade of membership, too (with higher fees) and see if academic departments and others would sign up. I think they might.

    Initially we could approach a friendly party like the ICCL to lend a hand, maybe with a little administrative help and a secure location to keep a filing cabinet. I'm also sure that you will have little problem finding people willing to donate server space, etc.
    maidhc wrote:
    Liasons
    An Irish only organisation will be of little benefit in the quasi federal experiment that is the EU. I’m sure help would be forthcoming from BEUC, and EDRI. It would be worth trying to get strong support from the latter in particular. Many copyright proposals originate from the EU, and it would be sensible to liaise with other interested parties.

    Well, that's a given. It's pretty much one of the first orders of business, but it shouldn't be too difficult given that there are already ties in place from individuals here.
    maidhc wrote:
    What the EFI really needs is someone to act as manager and to route calls from the press to an appropriate person. Appropriate people might be found here: http://www.expertiseireland.com/, it lists many the academics and their area of expertise, and if some were willing to lend a hand it would be great.

    However finding the person willing to devote their time to be the point of contact might be a problem.

    Maybe not. You never know what titans of activism a good publicity campaign through the colleges (and the odd IS department or so) might turn up. Anyone willing to bang out a couple of concepts for such a recruiting drive?




  • my suggestion to kick start this whole thing would be to form a group blog straight away with the people who are posting here posting news items & opinions on various aspects of the issues involved. It would give a much needed face to the organisation and would compliment this forum nicely.

    if people want this, i'd happily set up something simple like a wordpress install and do a nice design up, but unless you want it at efi.tcal.net (which probably wouldn't do a serious organisation any good... :) ) i'd suggest we need some angels to help out with hosting. While i think it's important that the debate continues on the structure of the org. itself, the website would be a very important part of galvanising support and it can't really hurt to try it out.




  • If you're looking for paid subscribers then count me in.




  • dangerman wrote:
    my suggestion to kick start this whole thing would be to form a group blog straight away with the people who are posting here posting news items & opinions on various aspects of the issues involved. It would give a much needed face to the organisation and would compliment this forum nicely.

    Yes, it's important that the momentum is kept up. People are coming off holidays, and others are starting the new academic year, so it's the right time to do it.
    dangerman wrote:
    if people want this, i'd happily set up something simple like a wordpress install and do a nice design up, but unless you want it at efi.tcal.net (which probably wouldn't do a serious organisation any good... :) ) i'd suggest we need some angels to help out with hosting. While i think it's important that the debate continues on the structure of the org. itself, the website would be a very important part of galvanising support and it can't really hurt to try it out.

    Did someone say (either here or on the blogs) that a domain name already exists...?


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  • Is there a particular reason why "EFI" must be used, it reminds me of an old toyota starlet we had once... the EFI being electronic fuel injection. But the name is the least of the issues.

    I would be happy to lend support to updating and maintaining any website. I can do XHTML, PHP and MySQL; my pride and joy being the Irish Legal Information Initiative (www.irlii.org). I have to say tough I have never quite caught onto the notion of the blog, and would think the construction of an informative neutral POV website would suit an orgainisation better...

    I'm not sure if it is common sense as to what the EFI takes on, I think it would need to be carefully thought about. I think orgainisations like the ICCL spend a lot of time fighting the wrong battles and fail to capture the public's interest.


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