About Becky Hogge

Becky Hogge is a freelance writer and broadcaster. She is the former executive director of the Open Rights Group, a London-based campaignin gorganisation that fights for civil and consumer rights in the digital age. She was previously the managing editor, and then technology director, of openDemocracy.net. She blogs here, and co-presents acclaimed London radio show Little AtomsHer first book, Barefoot into Cyberspace, was published in summer 2011.

Articles by Becky Hogge

This week's editor


Adam Ramsay is co-editor of OurKingdom.

Networked activism meets the dominant culture of technocratic managerialism in Westminster

The first full-time executive director of the Open Rights Group (and one-time openDemocracy technology director) describes the clash of cultures she experienced as a citizen activist trying to influence digital policy. Expect centralising managerialism to continue to have all the wrong instincts on digital law. (Extracted from Barefoot into Cyberspace)

The freedom cloud

The tools that help Arab democracy protesters also extend the reach of three United States corporations. The power of Facebook, Google, and Twitter represents an appropriation of the hacker-utopian ideals of the early internet, says Becky Hogge. The challenge to those who still uphold these ideals is to recover a true freedom path.

The internet's fading promise

It seems like old news. Two years ago, for openDemocracy, I reported on the release of the Open Net Initiative (ONI)'s investigation into internet censorship in China (see "The great firewall of China", 20 May 2005). Back then, I was able to use the words of John Gilmore - "the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it" - as a starting-point from which to watch in awe as his lore was slowly disproved. Today, everybody's at it, and the internet is starting to look more like a tool of control, not one of freedom.

Digging in

The corporate pressure on the successful user-generator news aggregator Digg highlights the flaws in the legal architecture governing next-generation media outlets, says Becky Hogge.

Campaigning in cyberspace

If politicians really want to reach voters via the internet, argues Becky Hogge, they need to exploit the best features of the new communications environment.

We are the web

Like language, the internet exists as a function of its users, who define and generate its structure. As the complex digital world evolves, however, some shared values are needed writes Becky Hogge.

'Data is the pollution of the information society'

How can free people grapple with growing threats to their privacy and liberty? A computer-security guru's view of the surveillance dystopia worries Becky Hogge.

A gain for the public domain

After a surprising breakthrough in negotiations, the scene is set for a full debate on intellectual-property rights and human development. Becky Hogge is encouraged, but the fight isn’t over yet.

Reporting Africa, blog by blog

A new collaboration between the citizen journalists of Global Voices and Reuters promises refreshing perspectives by and from Africa, says Becky Hogge.

One high, one low note for downloaders

As the music industry begins to move away from digital rights management, writes Becky Hogge, the European Union considers criminalising the infringement of intellectual property.

An Irish challenge to the EU's snooping law

The Data Retention Directive is incompatible with a democratic society, argues Becky Hogge, who backs Digital Rights Ireland's legal battle.

The future of intellectual property: Andrew Gowers interviewed

Andrew Gowers, commissioned by the British government to map the next generation's intellectual-property framework, explains his thinking to Becky Hogge – and leaves her feeling that the "copyfight" for a public domain of information has only just begun.

Let the IP debate begin !

An imminent British report on intellectual-property law will shape government policy on the balance between consumers and rightsholders. Becky Hogge sets the scene – and takes sides – in the debate to come.

Free software's Faustian moment

A recent deal between Microsoft and Novell has ignited the long-smouldering controversy about whether code can be owned. Is it the first step towards a two-tier software economy?

Flash! Web's creator doesn't fear for its future

After discussing reputation and the blogosphere, Tim Berners-Lee found his words turned upside down. Becky Hogge helps uncross the wires.

Information between old and new worlds

The defence of independent news and quality journalism is vital, but is it best served by recourse to law? Becky Hogge, unillusioned techno-utopian, considers the lessons of Google's multiple legal entanglements.

Consumer or citizen?

The marketisation of public choice is an infringement of freedom. At the heart of a fightback is the reclamation of language, says Becky Hogge.

Revolution at our fingertips

As the networked information revolution reaches a threshold for repression, Becky Hogge finds its future has already been written, and the battle lines are clear.

Anonymity on the net

The promotion of "darknets" is one response to corporate surveillance of personal data. But there is a better way to ensure privacy online, says Becky Hogge.

Whose space? Abuse and control in social networks

Social-networking websites are drawing fire as adults lure teenagers into real-world liaisons. Defending online communities, Becky Hogge argues for education not legislation.

Amnesty's China hit-list

An Amnesty International report on leading companies' complicity with China's internet censorship is the latest stage in a vital campaign, says Becky Hogge.

The Crown's copyright con

As the UK government abuses copyright law to stifle free speech and obstruct freedom of information, the case of Craig Murray reveals how the impulse of power to control dissent is crushing democratic rights anew.

'The Long Tail', Chris Anderson

Has the rise of "niche culture" brought about the demise of the smash hit blockbuster? Chris Anderson's seminal book explores a new era of cultural consumption and distribution.

What moves a movement?

How do you move a movement? The question lingers in my mind after three days here at the iSummit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, because behind the energy and excitement of the Creative Commoners gathered in their hundreds in Copacabana to share experiences of the free culture sphere, a niggling uncertainty persists.

Three days before the summit began, Creative Commons, the organisation behind the suite of legal licences revolutionising copyright on the net, announced they had teamed up with a company that many in the movement view with deep mistrust, Microsoft, to produce a tool embedded in Microsoft's Office suite allowing users to attach Creative Commons licences to files created in Word, Powerpoint and Excel. Although the collaboration was relatively small, the ideological significance, to some, seems great.

Becky Hogge is openDemocracy's Technology Director and Technology Commissioning Editor

Click here for a selection of Becky Hogge's articles from her "Virtual reality" column

Creative Commons licences allow authors to release their works "some rights reserved", selectively asserting the different rights that are established by copyright law, such as distribution, attribution and the right to produce derivative works, and releasing the rest to the "network of ends". Their inspiration is the Free Software or "copyleft" licence, the GNU General Public Licence, which is used in free and open source software and allows programmers to read, adapt and release new versions of a computer program's source code. Indeed, many of Creative Commons' thousands of supporters around the world came to that movement already supporters of free software.

By contrast, Microsoft's code is proprietary, meaning programmers have to take it or leave it. Most choose the latter, opting for the open source operating system Linux, which, thanks to the sheer numbers of talented coders who scrutinise it, is accepted as being more reliable by those with the technical literacy to employ it. Every movement needs an enemy, and for the free software movement that enemy is Microsoft.

Lawrence Lessig, whose involvement in the Creative Commons project over its four year history has been characterised as a cult of personality, announced he was "incredibly excited" by Creative Commons' collaboration with Microsoft. Gilberto Gil, Brazil's Minister of Culture and a major political figure behind the CC scheme, found it "thrilling". But unsurprisingly, others further down the information chain were less than delighted.

A movement has been chilled by less. The very spread of the Creative Commons movement, initiated by licences that are now in use in their hundreds of millions, makes its future unclear. Indeed its own momentum is what has brought Microsoft on board: Creative Commons could not pick and choose who uses its licences along ideological grounds even if it wanted to, they are tools made available to all. As the popularity of the licences grows, they are sure to be embraced by organisations that are less than attractive to the early adopters.

This article is part of a debate exploring global digital commons and culture. For more information on the commons movement, see the iCommons website.



Join the debate in the openDemocracy forums: "Do you remix?"

Creative Commons saw this trend coming more than a year ago, and have since been attempting to counter its negative effects on the free culture enthusiasts who form the core of the movement. To this end, they have established a new arm, the iCommons. Fronted first by Paula le Dieu, the former director of the BBC's Creative Commons-inspired Creative Archive, and now by Heather Ford, who helped bring Creative Commons to South Africa, the iCommons aims to incubate and connect projects that are working towards a global digital commons. Because it is less concerned with legal code that is available to all and more connected with common practice, the iCommons is the perfect altar at which free software and free culture pioneers may lay their aspirations for the movement. But will they?

For many, the message behind iCommons isn't clear. When this was put to Lawrence Lessig in the final session of the conference here in Rio last weekend, he was adamant it didn't need to be. Creative Commons does not tell you how you should be free, he countered, it provides you with tools, real things, which let you achieve the freedoms you believe in, and iCommons will be the same. But no matter what the Creative Commons board believes, their self-appointed advocates around the world were drawn to Creative Commons in part because of a perceived shared ideology. "We need trust and faith in each other", counters Lessig, "We need a recognition that we have a common purpose. Don't tell me that I need to tell you what that is, because we'll never agree, but we do have a common purpose."

Tools, then, not ideology, spurred the spread of the Creative Commons movement, to the extent that the Rio summit attracted delegations from Australia, China, Croatia, Senegal. But the iCommons' proposal for tools that "incubate" and "connect" projects gets too close to semantically bleached NGO doublespeak for the comfort of this writer. Creative Commons needs to invest as much time and money in iCommons as possible, to ensure that the tools and portals set to work on achieving these goals will be as intuitive, as inspirational and as downright cool as the licences were.

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