Content Makers Launch Controversial Elementary School Anti-Piracy Curriculum
In an attempt to make inroads on what some perceive as the long-term threat digital piracy poses to content creating industries, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Center For Copyright Infringement, Internet Keep Safe Coalition and some of the nation’s top ISPs have banded together to create an elementary school “copyright education” curriculum that is scheduled to be tested within California elementary schools this year. With a unique approach for each grade from kindergarten through sixth, the program hammers home a consistent message: copying content without paying for it is theft.
Critics of the program, which has not been released into classrooms yet, say that the program never once mentions the concept of fair use, and that the concept of a Creative Commons license is not raised until the fifth grade coursework, suggesting that rights holders who grant limited permission on re-use is somehow too complicated. Critics contend that even in explaining the Creative Commons, the lesson says that it’s illegal to make any copies of copyrighted works, explicitly stating on the fifth grade worksheet: “If a song or movie is copyrighted, you can’t copy it, download it, or use it in your own work without permission” which implies that it’s even unlawful to rip your own CDs to your own iPod.
Fair use is not a part of the teaching material because K-6 graders don’t have the ability to grasp it according to Marsali Hancock, President of the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, who said the program “is developmentally consistent with what children can learn at specific ages.” Hancock says the group will also develop materials for older kids that do discuss fair use at some point in the future.
“We’ve got some editing to do” concedes Glen Warren, vice president of the California School Library Association – the non-profit organization that helped produce the materials in conjunction with the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and content industry trade groups. Warren agrees that it is incorrect to tell students they can never use copyrighted works without permission, as the fifth-grade worksheet presently does. He stated that some of the package’s language may have been influenced by the rights holders and the Center for Copyright Information. “We’re moving along trying to get things a little closer to sanity, that tone and language, that came from that side of the fence, so to speak.”
The final curriculum remains to be seen, but the battle between industry and advocates for a new paradigm of copyright reflect the realities of the digital age and will most assuredly continue for quite some time to come. Digital content and publishing innovation will continue to push popular culture forward for the next generation, and students are being brought online at even earlier ages than ever before – making the evolving concepts of copyright, purchasing content, fair use, and materials safe for kids important for parents and publishers.