A California representative wants to compel schools to "educate" kids about digital piracy or lose their education technology grants. Rep. Ed Chavez's bill, which would require schools applying for California's Technology Assistance Project to demonstrate a plan to educate children in the rules of copyright, is headed for the Legislature's Education Committee. It's assumed it will easily become law, Ars Technica reports.
Schools that wish to apply for grants will need to demonstrate that they have a plan to educate their students in three areas: the "ethical behavior in regards to the use of information technology," "the concept, purpose, and significance of a copyright," and "the implications of illegal peer-to-peer network file sharing."
It's all about P2P, filesharing and digital theft, naturally. The bill says nothing of requirements to educate kids about their less well-known rights to free use and fair use.
"This activity has resulted in multi-billion dollar losses to the content industries in California particularly the music and filmed entertainment industries," according to a comment from Chavez's office. "When computers at public schools and college campuses are used for illegal file sharing, precious and costly bandwidth is consumed resulting in increased costs to taxpayers. An educational program targeted at students could help stem this activity. Many students, teachers, and parents do not realize that downloading a copyrighted song or film over the Internet is illegal and no different than stealing a CD or DVD from a retail store."
MPAA and RIAA, which both support the bill, of course, naturally consider the classrooom a prime battleground for the minds of the folks who will either internalize or disregard "ethics" about unauthorized downloading. But if copyright education is to happen in schools, shouldn't it tell the whole copyright story? If the information is based on industry propaganda, there's a problem.
A case in point is the MPAA's public education effort on their own site. The industry association once hosted a FAQ for DVD usage, but many believe that it was so riddled with errors and misstatements that the MPAA simply removed the FAQ. The MPAA, for instance, had described the DMCA as being designed to implement World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties, when the DMCA in fact goes far, far beyond anything required by the WIPO treaties in question (treaties that have not yet been fully honored or ratified by most other nations). Such matters may seem minor, but to many educators, they're anything but. Other the other hand, many parents and politicians are more concerned with results than methodology, especially in this age of lawsuits aimed at fire sharers. In their view, an educational program, even if it is biased in the direction of the entertainment industry, is better than nothing at all.
As an aside, here's a snippet from a recent MPAA press release:
On January 25, 2006 representatives from the MPAA attended a presentation at a local junior high school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Wired Kids founder Parry Aftab and the Teen Angels group. Teen Angels, a group of teenagers trained by local law enforcement and other experts in the field, spread the message about responsible and safe Internet surfing to other teens, parents, and teachers.