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The MPAA Goes to School

28 Oct, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

Well, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has succeeded in getting its antipiracy curriculum into schools, via a grant to Junior Achievement.

I suppose it's not a bad idea in theory, to educate youngsters in grades five through nine that downloading copyrighted material is stealing.

According to a survey by youth-oriented Web communications platform Bolt Labs and marketing concern House Three, 85 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds say their parents know they download music and ignore it. Just 13 percent said their parents intervened in any way, including telling them to stop or that it is illegal.

Sociologists have long said one of the most difficult impressions to change among youths in slums is the notion that success flows from the barrel of a gun or the point of a needle. Kids follow role models, whether they are drug-dealing gangbangers or pension-looting executives who get away scot-free. As long as our society fails to punish corporate executives for criminal malfeasance, I suspect the lesson that snatching a song off the Internet is bad will elude teens.

Not especially surprising. Nor is Junior Achievement and Harris Interactive's conclusion, based on a survey of 624 teens, that a third of teens “would act unethically to get ahead or make more money if there was no chance of getting caught.” Another 25 percent were undecided, and 42 percent said they would not act unethically.

I have serious misgivings about handing malleable young minds, not to mention tax-funded public school class time, over to any vested business interest. What's next, schools branded like sports arenas? Will all the P.S.s in New York get renamed MPAs with their assigned numbers?

Antipiracy education is following roughly the same path into schools as sex education and drug abuse prevention: uncomfortable or unconcerned parents abdicate their responsibility to educate and instill values into their children, so the schools take over.

It stands to reason that if the approach works, we should see about the same impact on downloading as sex education has had on pregnancy rates, sexually transmitted diseases and sexual activity in general among the same age groups. Or perhaps a similar effect to what DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) programs have on reducing youth drug and alcohol abuse, and the commensurate demand for illegal drugs. Numerous studies say those results are questionable, at best.

Holy cow, the copyright industries really are in trouble!

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