Thursday, June 08, 2006

BPI and Russian MP3 sites

Darth Tater's iPod
Warning on CD Case,
originally uploaded by Slin.
I made a post, Greedy and stupid, about how I resisted the temptation to buy music from a Russian download site. Well, I heard on the radio the other night that the BPI were starting legal action against one of these Russian sites. When pressed by the interviewer, the BPI spokesperson had to admit that they wouldn't be prosecuting anyone currently downloading from the site but encouraged music lovers to use legitimate download sources instead.

The interviewer asked why people should pay more to download something when it is not strictly illegal to get it at a fraction of the cost from these Russian sites? The BPI person did her best, and talked about rewarding the music producers so that they can continue to produce music, but it is a hard sell isn't it? Even talking to student teachers about illegal downloads gets a lot of, "Yes, of course it's illegal... but..." responses along with nods and winks and the implication of, "...but everybody does it, don't they?" How will we convince the children about information ethics if the people teaching them are not convinced?

It seems to me that this is an extension of the new literacy issues that David Warlick (among others) talks about. It's about respecting information producers. It's about not exploiting others and their work. It's about using information ethically.

How do we teach this stuff though? Do we take a "Just say no!" approach that the children ignore and many of the teachers seem unconvinced by themselves? I think we need something more radical, but I'm not sure what.

I heard about a project in a primary school. Each pupil in the class had built model houses and they all combined them to make a street - a little model community. Then they added other stuff to make this model community as attractive as they could - to make it the kind of place where they'd like to live. The morning after the had finished it, they came into the class to discover that their model community had been broken and covered with paint! There were tears, there was anger, there was a great deal of upset. Who could have spoiled their model community in this way? It was in fact the teacher! The teacher was giving an object lesson about vandalism and the effect that it has on others.

To be honest, I don't think I could bring myself to cause that level of lasting psychological damage just to make a teaching point, but is some sort of object lesson about the effect of downloading necessary? If so, what?

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