Sunday, January 27, 2008

To Copy or Not to Copy?

Another interesting article sent to me a while ago by Eric Esteves. This one comes from the New York Times and tweaks my interest on two fronts.

First, what do I consider illegal downloading and copyright infringement? The truth is, it probably varies from person to person. The author of the article, David Pogue, describes a short exercise he uses with groups that he talks to. He throws out different CD ripping scenarios and asks his audience to raise their hands when they feel copyright has been violated. There are some interesting scenarios like, "I own a certain CD, but it got scratched. So I borrow the same CD from the library and rip it to my computer." or "I record a movie off of HBO using my DVD burner. Who thinks that's wrong?" He continues to poll his audience asking questions that some audience members answer as a copyright violation, while others do not. Even as I read this article, I had trouble deciding what copyright infringement is and what isn’t.

The second reason I found this article so interesting was the response Mr. Pogue got when he asked these same questions to about 500 college students. After he asked each question, only about two students raised their hands. So then he asked this question, "O.K., let's try one that's a little less complicated: You want a movie or an album. You don't want to pay for it. So you download it. Who thinks that might be wrong?" Only two out of 500 raised their hands.

The question is, what message as parents and educators should we be sending to our kids and students about music and video downloading? As educators, there are resources out there to help you out. However, do we already live in a culture in which the younger generation feels that downloading music and video off the internet for free is not wrong? How do we change that perception…should we?

One thing we should be warning our students about is the possibility of facing legal action for sharing copyrighted music online. Recently, there were some Mississippi State students sent fines in the mail for sharing music, then there is the incredible verdict against a woman who was fined $222,000 for illegally sharing copyrighted music on Kazaa. There are many people who do not agree with the recording industry suing people for sharing music. A blog has been set up by some lawyers in New York City called, Recording Industry Vs the People. According to the site, its mission is to “to collect and share information about the wave of sham ‘copyright infringement’ lawsuits brought by four large record companies to abuse the American judicial system, distort copyright law, and frighten ordinary working people and their children.” The site provides information about lawsuits happening all across the country.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cyberbullying Study

Eric Esteves from Tech Boston sent over a couple of interesting articles about cyberbullying today. The first article comes from eSchool News and suggests that cyberbullying is on the rise. The article refers to a study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that approximately 1 in 3 U.S. children were ridiculed or threatened through computer messages. This statistic mirrors the results of a similar study released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project last year which also stated approximately 32% of children were being bullied online in some fashion. posted an article that gives a good background on what cyberbullying is and the different types of bullying kids encounter.

The issue of cyberbullying is not a new one, but more and more high profile cases, such as the Megan Meier tragedy, are being publicized and lawmakers around the country are beginning to act. Some states have already passed cyberbullying laws whiles others are proposing bills to help prevent online bullying and harrassment.

The other article that Eric sent over wasn't about cyberbullying, but how some Australian schools are using high tech equipment to catch in school bullying. Read the article and you may want to get a "bully button" for your school!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

MySpace to Implement Safety Measures

Social Networking site,, reached an agreement with attorney generals from 49 states to implement new safety measures to help protect children from online predators and cyberbullies. One of the biggest problems that MySpace has agreed to address is developing a way to verify the ages of its members. Right now, MySpace does not verify the age of its users. When new users sign up for a profile, the site asks for a date of birth, but it is easy for someone who is underage to lie about when they were born. In fact, it is easy to create an entirely fake profile on MySpace. A recent cyberbullying case that was highlighted in this blog was centered around a fake MySpace profile. Federal prosecuters are considering filing fraud charges against the person responsible for creating that fake account.

Other measures that MySpace is making are:
  • Allowing parents to submit the emails of their children to prevent them or anyone else from creating a Myspace account.
  • Keeping the profiles of 16 and 17 year olds private (They already keep the profiles of 14 and 15 yeal olds private.)
  • Devote more staff to monitoring innapropriate content on the site.

Questions remain as to how they plan on verifying the ages of its users as well as the effectiveness of these measures. Texas did not sign the agreement because of concerns about how MySpace would be able to effectively verify the ages of its users. Nancy Willard of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use says that the restrictions do not address the problems of teens with uninvolved parents that are "looking for love online". has a video of the news report.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cyber Safety Movie Premiere

A premiere of Jake’s Cyber Adventure was shown in the Boston School Committee’s Chambers at Court Street just before the holiday break. The red carpet was rolled out for the BPS cyber safety mentors who wrote, filmed and starred in the movie. The movie premiere was attended by some members of the school committee, representatives from the District Attorney’s office, Attorney General’s office, Mayor’s office, Symantec Corporation, Microsoft, and the Boston Public Library. So far the movie has received favorable reviews from those who have seen it. The movie brings the BPS cyber safetyheroes to life as they help a young boy named Jake stay safe online. Throughout the movie, the cyber superheroes help Jake to avoid the dangers of Dr. V and all of his malicious deeds. Jake learns all kinds of lessons about cyber safety, including strategies on dealing with cyber bullies, cyber security, and personal safety online. Copies of Jake's Cyber Adventure will be available to schools in time for Boston Public School’s internet safety month in April.

The students who performed in the movie worked hard over the summer as a part of a group that was hired through a donation from the Microsoft Corp. The group of BPS students was trained to become Cyber Safety Mentors and spent the summer creating materials to be used by schools to educate students about internet safety. Former Boston Public School graduates Helen Chan and Chhorvy Ly were hired to supervise the group of 14 students. Haruna Tada and Eric Esteves of Tech Boston were also instrumental in the making of this movie. Haruna created all of the costumes for the movie while Eric worked with the students to create and film the movie.