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Thursday, August 04, 2005 

More on the proposed EFF Ireland

The question of whether we should set up a national version of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is attracting a good deal of comment from different parties across the Irish corner of the Net today (see Damien Mulley, Dick O'Brien and Boards.ie). This is a sign of healthy interest in the issue, which is encouraging to see.

The blogger-protection angle in this is being covered pretty well over in the Back Seat Drivers thread. But I'd like to add a comment on the discussion over at Boards, which has been tackling the wider concerns which the EFF could be expected to cover (I'm not, alas, going to register at Boards). In particular, part of what Antoin posted:

"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."

(Ed. note - the "ICCL" is the Irish Council for Civil Liberties)

Mr. Mulley notes this too, in the same thread. A cursory look at the ICCL website confirms that there's nary a sign of any of the issues which would in theory be the remit of an EFF. The range of issues we're concerned with are quite important, but they suffer from being fairly incomprehensible to most politicians, members of the public and, it seems, the ICCL.

In fact (and as I've said before), the only person I can remember having an interest in these issues was Patricia McKenna, the former Green MEP.

As Antoin goes on:
"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."

He's right (I'm a great believer in subsidiarity as well). The point of setting up an EFF here should be to cover the areas devoid of an independent voice at the moment (such as software patents), and to merely serve as support and co-ordinator to those which are already adequately represented.

As Danny O'Brien (hat-tip to Mr. Mulley again) said a while back, a good deal of the function of the hypothetical UK EFF (the rest being the organising, legal aid and fund-raising) would be to:

"act as a media conduit. Half our problem in the UK right now is that the press just don't have anyone in their address books that they can confidently call about on these issues. As Rufus said, most of the time they just run music industry press releases as news. The biggest lesson for me with NTK was that your best way to influence the agenda, and generate support, is to generate stories, and point people to the right experts. Just having someone at the end of a phone, handing out quotes and press releases, and pro-actively calling journalists to make sure they know what's going on, putting them in contact with all the other orgs in this area in the UK, is half the work."

I propose that we go forward with laying the foundations of this, right now.

Danny O'Brien (in the article quoted from above) proposed that a pledge be set up to get the startup funds for such an organisation in the UK. We could do the same here, if someone like the ICCL is willing (I'm sure they would be) to help. There must also be sympathetic academics in the third-level colleges, who would be invaluable.

And if someone (Irish Times journalists?) has a contact in the American EFF, we would need to get in touch with them too, and as soon as possible. Time's wasting, folks, and these issues aren't being addressed.

p.s. Antoin also mentions that there's a group in UCC working on the Creative Commons issue. Does anyone know who's doing it...?

UPDATE: a post over at the Irishblogs Yahoo! Group has more:

"fwiw, there *was* an Irish EFF back in the early 90's -- EFI. I was
involved as was Antoin and a few others. it's pretty much carked
it now though.

That could be revived -- but really, I'd suggest thinking out the list of
topics *first*, since, if it's all about protecting bloggers, that's not
strictly EFF material -- it really is more like a bloggers' union."

Well, that's interesting (and s/he correctly points out that an EFF would be more than just a "blogger's union"). There seems to be a reference to it on Boards here. Anyone from those days want to weigh in on what went wrong?

UPDATE: Antoin (in comments) has pointed to the UCC team, who can be found here. He also has an informative post on this subject over at his website.

"Libel"-Richard Waghorne
"Attack blog"-Damien Mulley

About me

  • An early-thirties male Irish technologist living and working in Dublin, I'm a former (recovering) member of both Fianna Fáil and the Roman Catholic Church.

    I'm not a member of any political party these days, but my opinions can be broadly categorised as 'lefty' and republican. I am also a former member of the Irish Defence Forces.

    Please feel free to check out the FI Fie Foe Fum group blog, where I was once a regular contributor, and the Cedar Lounge Revolution, where I can usually be found in the comments.

    (This blog and its contents reflect only my own personal opinions as a private citizen, and not those of any other person or organisation.)



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