California Schools Might Subject Students to Exciting Lessons in Why Piracy Is Bad

Take us back to geometry.

Preview of the program. (Photo: I Keep Safe/Wired)
Preview of the program. (Photo: I Keep Safe/Wired)

Gather ’round, kiddos! It’s time for your weekly lesson on how your propensity for downloading music illegal is killing the content creation industry.

If that doesn’t excite the inner child in you, imagine how kids in California are going to feel because some schools are rolling out a curriculum dedicated to copyright theft. Students from kindergarten to sixth grade are soon going to be treated to a delightful presentation from the Motion Picture Association of America, Center For Copyright Infringement and the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, which includes executives from Comcast, AT&T and the RIAA.

Wired got its hands on the educational packet that’s designed to teach kids the no-no’s of downloading. Included are worksheets, talking points for teachers and a short video that equates sharing music with terrorism.

The sixth-grade version, for example, compares piracy to cheating. “In school, if we copy a friend’s answers on a test or homework assignment, what happens?” teachers are told to ask their students. Answer: “In the digital world, it’s harder to see the effects of copying, even though the effects can be more serious,” the worksheet says. You know, like jail time.

The program is not without its critics, including Mitch Stoltz. He’s an intellectual property attorney with Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that’s long battled the MPAA and RIAA’s rules.

“This thinly disguised corporate propaganda is inaccurate and inappropriate,” he said. “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.”

One glaring omission is the concept of fair use. Mr. Stolz said Justin Bieber used that method (i.e. covering songs and throwing them up on YouTube) and that didn’t seem to detrimental to the music industry’s bottom line. “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,” reasoned Mr. Stolz.

The program’s creators admitted it has “some editing” to do, but the fair use portion might not make it into the program because it’s too advanced for elementary students. The group’s plan is to roll the curriculum out across the country, since scaremongering at an early age is the best solution here. California Schools Might Subject Students to Exciting Lessons in Why Piracy Is Bad