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.