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Hollywood’s anti-piracy propaganda turned into K-12 curriculum in California

Nov 18, 20135 mins
ComplianceData and Information SecurityMicrosoft

Get 'em while they're young seems to be Hollywood and the music industry’s game plan as a K-12 curriculum about the evils of copyright infringement will be taught in California classrooms.

Get ’em while they’re young seems to be the MPAA and RIAA’s game plan; when it comes to education, U.S. students rank behind international peers in reading, math and science, but the MPAA, RIAA and others intend to take time away from those studies by adding a curriculum for kindergarten through high school students that teaches the evils of online piracy.

The Center for Copyright Information, which is supported by music labels, Hollywood studios and major Internet service providers, has commissioned a curriculum about copyright infringement sins. The Center for Copyright Information also manages Six Strikes, officially called the Copyright Alert System.

Why teach kids about creative content online? The Center for Copyright Information replied, “Because students need it.” For grades K-6, “lessons introduce age-appropriate (non-legal) concepts of sharing and ownership.” The curriculum for grades 9-12 will “explore copyright as a legal concept” and “important issues like fair use….The goal of the curriculum is to introduce age-appropriate concepts to children about artistic creations, including that children can be creators and innovators just like their favorite musicians, actors and artists.”

Los Angeles Times reported:

Called “Be a Creator,” the proposed copyright curriculum is for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. It includes lesson plans, videos and activities for teachers and parents to help educate students about the “importance of being creative and protecting creativity,” with topics such as “Respect the Person: Give Credit,” “It’s Great to Create,” and “Copyright Matters.”

According to the second grade curriculum [pdf], a teacher is prompted to say “We’re going to talk about an interesting, grown up idea for a minute – PERMISSION.” It’s about a bike and whether or not to share it; there’s also a video.

The lesson for second graders is only supposed to take 20 minutes, but that doesn’t jive with the suggested idea of also showing the first grade video and taking photos throughout the day with an iPad. If time permitted for taking those photos, then the mind game kicks in as the teacher is prompted to have students look through the “photograph collection to decide which photographs he wants to give to friends, post online, sell to neighbors, or keep for his family.” The teacher is supposed to then say:

You’re not old enough yet to be selling your pictures online, but pretty soon you will be. And you’ll appreciate if the rest of us respect your work by not copying it and doing whatever we want with it.

The evils of copyright infringement video, embedded below, is an example for sixth graders. This lesson is slated to take 30 minutes.

In the version for sixth graders [pdf], as reported by Wired’s David Kravets, “teachers are asked to engage students with the question: ‘In school, if we copy a friend’s answers on a test or homework assignment, what happens?’ The answer is, you can be suspended from school or flunk the test. The teachers are directed to tell their students that there are worse consequences if they commit a copyright violation.”

“This thinly disguised corporate propaganda is inaccurate and inappropriate,” Mitch Stoltz, an intellectual property attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Kravets. “It suggests, falsely, that ideas are property and that building on others’ ideas always requires permission. 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.”

While the program is still being drafted by iKeepSafe and the California School Library Association, some in the California Teachers Association are not thrilled about the curriculum that “promotes the biased agenda of Hollywood studios and music labels.” According to spokesman Frank Wells, “Some teachers would have a concern that adding anything of any real length to an already packed school day would take away from the basic curriculum that they’re trying to get through now.”

Even though most kindergarten children are younger than age 7, the age of reason when a child’s conscience matures enough to guide his or her actions, it’s not too young to push Hollywood’s agenda in the classroom. But since most parents allow unsupervised internet access to children at age eight, where’s the curriculum to teach online safety? After all, 51% of parents suggested that teaching online safety is the responsibility of teachers.

How about teaching online security, is that not more important than Hollywood’s message? How about teaching the evils of over-sharing and online privacy wisdom? Perhaps the proposed copyright brainwashing curriculum starts in kindergarten, as opposed to online security or privacy lesson plans, because by the time those kids are adults, there won’t be any privacy, just a police state of surveillance?

Of course if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) secret trade agreement isn’t stopped in its current form, the internet will soon be a completely different beast.

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.