Teaching copyright to schoolkids is a recent innovation, one spurred in large part by the fantastical growth and amazing ease of digital copying—both legal and illegal.
Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has launched a curriculum of its own in an effort to “give students the real story about their digital rights and responsibilities on the Internet and beyond.” But if the rightsholder-produced material stresses the “responsibilities” side of the equation a bit too heavily, the EFF leans predictably the other way.
The Web-based EFF curriculum is called, simply, “Teaching Copyright.” It makes clear that students should not infringe copyright, but this is secondary to extended discussions about the VCR, the photocopier, audio cassettes, and blank CDs—technologies that each posed challenges to copyright holders.
In a classroom exercise on P2P music sharing, the class is asked to consider the case of a “12-year-old girl in Toledo” who is sued for file-sharing. “The 12-year-old girl downloaded the songs, but she didn’t know she was doing anything illegal,” we are told. “She found the files on a site that was free to access, but there were no warning signs that the bands didn’t authorize the site. She’s a huge fan of these bands—she owns all of their CDs and just wanted to hear the new songs.”
As for the bands she downloaded, we learn that one wants her to pay for the music but the other “has a different perspective and supports music file-sharing technology, even encouraging fans to download its latest album of MP3s for free or for whatever they want to pay. Band B believes P2P file-sharing helps promote its music and encourages an even wider spectrum of music to be heard.”