Teaching Kids About Copyright

I have no problem with the idea of teaching kids about copyright. After all, kids are the future. We’re doing it for the kids. Feed the children. Save the world—etc. etc. etc.

However, copyright is a complex subject that most adults don’t fully understand. When I say “most adults,” I’m referring specifically to the RIAA, the MPAA, and other entertainment industry executives who routinely misrepresent the specifics of copyright law to intentionally confuse the public.

My concern is that programs designed to teach kids about copyright laws amount to little more than entertainment industry propaganda. Fair Use and the Right of First Sale are routinely left out of copyright discussions, as are the concept and importance of the public domain.

If you’re going to teach kids about copyright, you should, well, teach them about copyright. That includes teaching them about the parts of copyright law that might be at odds with your business model. Otherwise, you’re just teaching kids about your business model.

The MPAA seems to have been the most proactive in its effort to “educate” kids about copyright.

Now the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency has launched a new program to educate the children of Canada about copyright. Leave it to the Canadians to beat Hollywood at their own game by creating a new superhero – Captain Copyright!

Captain Copyright briefly acknowledges Fair Use and Public Domain on his website. Still, the course material provided to teachers does not mention these concepts, focusing almost exclusively on piracy and other types of copyright violations.

The Captain provides teachers with exciting exercises, like this one for Grades 1 to 3 called “Imagine A World Without Copyright.” Students are encouraged to brainstorm their favorite creative works and then imagine what it would be like if there were no copyrights to protect those works. I would guess that the lower end of this age group might identify many of those early Disney works based on public-domain stories and folk tales. Oh, but that part isn’t in the lesson plan.

Captain Copyright could use a lesson or two about complying with alternate copyright schemes. As Boing Boing points out, Captain Copyright is a Wikipedia pirate.

The Captain has a few other quirks as well. From his website’s IP Notice:

iv. You are not permitted to copy or cut from any page or its HTML source code to the Windows™ clipboard (or equivalent on other platforms) onto any other website.

I copied that last paragraph to my Mac OSX ™ clipboard (equivalent to the Windows ™ clipboard). I consider this to be fair use. Come and get me, Captain.

Also, there’s this gem:

in order to protect the moral rights associated with this site, permission to link is explicitly withheld from any website the contents of which may, in the opinion of the Access Copyright, be damaging or cause harm to the reputation of Access Copyright.

I wonder if that covers a link saying the Medialoper can kick Captain Copyright’s ass. Or what about Captain Copyright Sucks!?

These are the questions kids are bound to ask. So Captain Copyright better have a good answer.

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