Listen up children. You may get sent to ‘time out’ for fighting in the playground or the “naughty corner” for pulling a classmate’s hair, but copying someone else ideas and making them your own is much, much worse. That is exactly what the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America will be teaching your children if they have their way. A new plan to introduce an anti-piracy curriculum into schools is under way. Teachers will have to inform their students about the “perils of piracy” effectively teaching small children that sharing a music track with your friend is evil and effectively depriving the content creators of its well-earned profits.
A draft of the new curriculum informs that the material to be taught is in line with children’s developing ability to comprehend that copying, rather than copyright infringement is theft, period. An intellectual property solicitor with the Electronic Frontier Foundation has reviewed the draft and remarked, “This thinly disguised corporate propaganda is inaccurate and inappropriate.”
“It suggests, falsely, that ideas are property and that building on others’ ideas always requires permission,” Stoltz says. “The overriding message of this curriculum is that students’ time should be consumed not in creating but in worrying about their impact on corporate profits.”
Vassileous Karriganopolous, a lecturer in Intellectual Property at the University of Strathclyde added, "Entrusting the education of our children regarding an issue as crucial for our information-based societies as the use and sharing of ideas and intellectual work, to private, non-educational, profit-focused organisations, seems ethically problematic and risky for the intellectual and creative development of the coming generations".
An example question – for those in the 6th grade asks students what are the consequences if you copy your friend’s homework or answers on an exam. The guidance instructs teachers to inform students that the consequences are far more severe if you commit copyright infringement. The material doesn’t highlight that there are substantial differences between plagiarism and copyright infringement. It is also without any discussion of fair use or fair dealing – the legal doctrine that allows for the reproduction of copyrighted works without the rights holder’s permission. Instead, they are told that copying is stealing.
“Justin Bieber got started singing other people’s songs, without permission, on YouTube. If he had been subjected to this curriculum, he would have been told that what he did was ‘bad, ‘stealing,’ and could have landed him in jail,” says Stoltz.
A representative of the California School Library Association, the non-profit that helped produce the material with the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and industry said, “We still have some editing to do”.
Marsali Hancock says fair use is not a part of the teaching material because K-6 graders don’t have the ability to grasp it. The curriculum, she said in a telephone interview, “is developmentally consistent with what children can learn at specific ages.”
“You’re not old enough yet to be selling your pictures online, but pretty soon you will be,” reads the accompanying text in the teacher’s lesson plan. (.pdf) “And you’ll appreciate if the rest of us respect your work by not copying it and doing whatever we want with it.”
There was no comment from the MPAA or the RIAA if the curriculum was also to include price-fixing, e-books pricing manipulation, Digital Right management, the arrest of Kim Dotcom, unfair royalties, the suicide of Aaron Schwarz, payola schemes or copyright trolls.
The program was commissioned by the Center for Copyright Information. The centre’s executive director, Jill Lesser, told a House subcommittee in the US Congress recently that she hoped the program would be integrated in “schools across the country”.
“Based on our research, we believe one of the most important audiences for our educational efforts is young people. As a result, we have developed a new copyright curriculum that is being piloted during this academic year in California.”
“The curriculum introduces concepts about creative content in innovative and age-appropriate ways. The curriculum is designed to help children understand that they can be both creators and consumers of artistic content, and that concepts of copyright protection are important in both cases,” Lesser testified.
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