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.

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