Last week I concluded this column by stating that while you throttle bandwidth or block websites for people caught illegally downloading music, you’ll have a harder time changing the habits of the young people who have been downloading music for free for as long as they’ve been using the computer.
It seems the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have already recognised this and have actually produced a cirriculum for teaching respect for intellectual property and responsible use of the internet to school children.
It’s called Music Rules! and its website claims it “informs students about the laws of copyright and the risks of online file-sharing, while promoting musical and artistic creativity”.
It offers teachers and parents free materials from its site which includes activity sheets to make kids think about the effects of downloading. They range from asking the student to write down what a singer, producer or DJ would say about the effects of “songlifting” to asking them to interview friends and family about where they got their music and put the results in a chart. By the end of the cirriculum, students sign a pledge to never download music and to respect intellectual copyright law.
Naturally, there has been a huge number of critics of Music Rules! with groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation calling it a propaganda effort. The EFF also points to a number of inaccuracies in the material such as the activity which asks students to calculate the price of downloading a song, making the assumption that an illegal download equals a lost sale.
More blatantly though, it points to an activity in which the students are asked to start an anti-piracy campaign in their community and to contact local newspapers and TV stations to get their message heard, an activity which the EFF says turns students into RIAA’s “own unpaid public relations staff”.
In response, the EFF have produced an alternative cirriculum called Teaching Copyright which they say focuses on teaching the students their digital rights rather than telling them what not to do.
There’s also another alternative in cartoon form made by ASCAP (The American Society of songwriters, composers and music publishers) called Donny The Downloader in which Donny downloads some music from “Half-Dollar” (ahem) and gets told off by a cheerleader who blames his downloading for getting her mom fired.
So far, the Youtube trailer has racked up a measly 11 views, which maybe highlights how interesting this material is for the kids more than anything else.