UK Begins Absolutely Bonkers 'Education' Of Grade Schoolers About Intellectual Property And Piracy

from the hey-teacher-leave-those-kids-alone dept

Several years ago, a music industry transplant into Parliament, Mike Weatherley, made a glorious push to get the government to invade primary schools in the country to teach them that piracy is the worst thing in the world and intellectual property laws are super cool. Children as young as seven years old would be subjected to “educational information” provided by the government on the “proper” use of the internet. This was not the first attempt at pushing copyright propaganda on kids. In fact, we’ve reported on many of these, going all the way back to 2003 — and many of the programs have been mockable, including the infamous Captain Copyright.

You would think that maybe those producing this propaganda would realize that it basically always is a flop as kids are smart enough to see through it — and that their attempts to be cool and hip tend to come off as insane. But… the UK has pushed forward with this plan, and you have no fucking idea how insane it actually is.

Part of the education features a fictitious cartoon band called Nancy and the Meerkats. With help from their manager, they learn key copyright insights and this week several new videos were published, BBC points out.

The videos try to explain concepts including copyright, trademarks, and how people can protect the things they’ve created. Interestingly, the videos themselves use names of existing musicians, with puns such as Ed Shealing, Justin Beaver, and the evil Kitty Perry. Even Nancy and the Meerkats appears to be a play on the classic 1970s cartoon series Josie and the Pussycats, featuring a pop band of the same name.

As TorrentFreak points out, the inclusion of a parody of Ed Sheeran is more than a bit eyebrow-raising, considering just how open to and grateful for piracy and filesharing Sheeran has been. For the government to hijack his likeness for a parody that takes the opposite view is, at the very least, uncouth. If it seems odd that a series of videos extolling the virtues of intellectual property rights makes such liberal use of parody to play on well-known entertainment stars, well, just take a look at the government’s video trying to explain parody and fair use and picture a bunch of first-through-fifth graders taking this all in.

Beyond how vomit-inducing the video is generally, one wonders just how closely the message in the video overlaps with actual UK law. While UK law is more stringent on free speech when it comes to so-called “insulting” speech, it seems far too simple an explanation to state that any parody that is found insulting would be illegal. Let’s say, for instance, that Ed Sheeran considers this parody depiction of him, complete with an anti-piracy message that comes off as the opposite of his own, is insulting. Is the UK’s IPO really saying that its own video suddenly becomes illegal?

Now, while the videos generally tread upon long-debunked ground…

After the Meerkats found out that people were downloading their tracks from pirate sites and became outraged, their manager Big Joe explained that file-sharing is just the same as stealing a CD from a physical store.

“In a way, all those people who downloaded free copies are doing the same thing as walking out of the shop with a CD and forgetting to go the till,” he says.

“What these sites are doing is sometimes called piracy. It not only affects music but also videos, books, and movies.If someone owns the copyright to something, well, it is stealing. Simple as that,” Big Joe adds.

…there is also some almost hilarious over-statements on the importance of this messaging and intellectual property as a whole. For instance, were you aware that the reason it’s so important to teach 7 year olds about copyright and trademark is because navigating intellectual property is a full-blown “life skill?”

According to Catherine Davies of IPO’s education outreach department, knowledge about key intellectual property issues is a “life skill” nowadays.

“In today’s digital environment, even very young people are IP consumers, accessing online digital content independently and regularly,” she tells the BBC. “A basic understanding of IP and a respect for others’ IP rights is therefore a key life skill.”

It’s enough to make you wonder if this is all just another example of a parody of those that push intellectual property rights education on school-aged children — so ham-fisted is the execution and so wildly overstated is its importance.

Ultimately, we can likely rest easy, because children even as young as seven are far too smart and resourceful, not to mention critical in terms of entertainment, as to consider these videos to be anything other than the obvious propaganda that they are. One nearly hopes that some of these children will create their own parodies and put them up on that dangerous internet thing they’ve been warned about, with hopefully as much mean-spirit as their little psyches can conjure.

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Comments on “UK Begins Absolutely Bonkers 'Education' Of Grade Schoolers About Intellectual Property And Piracy”

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99 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

“Part of the education features a fictitious cartoon band called Nancy and the Meerkats”

This made me giggle. Meerkats have become rather popular in the UK, largely due to an entertaining series of commercials for the insurance comparison website Compare The Market (featuring a bunch of Russian meerkats discussing a website called Compare The Meerkat). The success has gone far beyond the commercials themselves, with all sorts of merchandising and other services wholly unrelated to the insurance product having sprung up. There’s little reason to think that the choice of animal here is anything other than an attempt to reference something the kids would already be familiar with in positive light.

In other words, they’re essentially trying to reach the kiddies about the evils of infringement by appropriating the successful work of someone else, and leveraging the audience that someone else built by copying their product.

“As TorrentFreak points out, the inclusion of a parody of Ed Sheeran is more than a bit eyebrow-raising, considering just how open to and grateful for piracy and filesharing Sheeran has been”

Not really. That would assume intellectual honesty and a level of self-awareness that someone openly lying in this way would not possess. Certainly not people willing to copy someone else’s product for a propaganda piece on how evil copying stuff is.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Cool comment bro. Maybe there should also be regular classes for 7 year olds on the evils of white collar banking crimes and ponzi schemes. After all, if you point out that such an “education” of children that young is kind of weird and silly, then you’re “whacko” for not wanting to tell children that breaking the law isn’t a good idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Techdirt as usual against The Law as such, and for thefts.

>> “Cool comment bro. Maybe there should also be regular classes for 7 year olds on the evils of white collar banking crimes and ponzi schemes.”

You appear to not even grasp that you thereby support the comment more than mock it.

And stop astro-turfing your own pieces! Didn’t your parents or anyone ever tell you that self-flattery is counter-productive? — Well, okay, it’s not in this weird little realm of Techdirt, but is in the real world. — I note your fondness for “bro”, and that Techdirt now has a “BroD” screen name, one on this page. Many of the comments (throughout Techdirt) are remarkably uniform and not inconsistent with your views and writing style.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

On the other hand …
It is pretty obvious what the music industry did to themselves.
You really have to put your head in the sand to pretend not to know that.

Grifting is with us forever.

Children at the age struggle with the concept of sharing, and you want to interject some ridiculous excuse for them to take all their toys and go home so that they can eat all the cookies themselves while feeling justified in their actions.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

  1. Piracy makes an easy scapegoat, but there’s huge number of other issues behind the industry’s problems if you wish to look at reality. Piracy will only ever be a part of the issue, you’re deluding yourself if you think it’s the be all and end all.

    2. It was also with us for millenia before someone came up with the current copyright rules.

    3. Actual laws, yes. Not the strawmen that are talked about in this kind of silly propaganda.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

  1. Not obvious at all, actually. Unless you mean how everybody sharing their CDs and MP3s with their friends created massive amounts of free advertising and led to increased overall sales and a perpetual rise in profit margins for publishers and recording labels. That’s what you meant right?

    2. Maybe, maybe not, but piracy will always be around since there will always be those few who refuse to pay for anything. Punishing people who obey the law just to try and catch those few last pirates only pushes law abiders into piracy. Something something “tighten your grip” something something “slip through your fingers”.

    3. When they misinterpret the law and leave out all that stuff about parody and fair use, then yeah, it’s a good idea and only makes the recording industry look whacko, not us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Imagine if one of those kids knew about the problem in the youtube system. Would they be the one to respond well to this message?

“Teacher, if copyright is important and must be respected, why did *insert favorite youtuber* get his video taken down for something he made? Did they steal the copyright from him?”

Either the teacher will have no answer; stumble for an answer in front of the kid; or they will be blunt about it.

“They don’t respect our rights, but they want to force us to respect theirs.”

Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile) says:

I’m a member of the generation who were shown the ‘Tourettes – I swear I can’t help it’ video as part of a well-meaning exercise to raise awareness of the syndrome and to foster a greater understanding of the issues and stigmas surrounding it.

Unfortunately you can probably guess what happens when you show a bunch of schoolkids a video of people swearing and say its alright they have tourettes – that video did not have the intended effect and neither will this.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“You wouldn’t download a car, would you?”

As is my usual answer to that particular piece of idiocy – if the car could be freely duplicated without any real cost and no loss of use for the owners of any other car on the road? Yes, I would. Just like many people started downloading their movies instead of being forced to sit through that unskippable crap on their legally purchased DVDs.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

For instance, were you aware that the reason it’s so important to teach 7 year olds about copyright and trademark is because navigating intellectual property is a full-blown "life skill?"

Well then, obviously we need to change the law if navigating copyright and IP laws is so difficult it has to be considered a ‘life skill’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Doing taxes is a life skill, getting a mortgage is a life skill, getting a student loan is a life skill, paying bills and getting credit cards is a life skill. I learned some of that in Business Math, which was an elective course.

We rarely teach children how to beat the essential systems set up in our society, much less how to competently navigate them. Government initiatives to teach only work if they teach what is truly necessary to know (which requires more money than they’re usually willing to spend).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’d think not as many children need to be explicitly taught those (save maybe some literacy) by the time they’re 7.

Last I checked we weren’t in the habit of having school teach all the rest of those skills for us…

But you’re a slow learner, so maybe school was different for you?

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is a pretty steep difference between requiring a life skill to succeed or do well, requiring one just to figure out how to not break the law.

People are naturally motivated to learn things that benefit you directly. They are not naturally motivated to learn complex arbitrary legal systems just to make sure they never cross any invisible lines or step on any cracks.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Doing taxes is a life skill, getting a mortgage is a life skill, getting a student loan is a life skill, paying bills and getting credit cards is a life skill. I learned some of that in Business Math, which was an elective course.

And right here is one of the major problems in education, both in the UK and, I suspect, the US: These are not separate skills! All of these are "Maths + applying an existing skill in a different way"

The issue is not; "We rarely teach children how to beat the essential systems set up in our society", but that educational systems are mostly set up to impart specific, testable knowledge to children so that the "progress" can be easily counted. It rarely addresses the question of how to learn for yourself and apply the skills you have learnt to new situations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, teachers tend to be crappy at answering “why this is useful for me to learn”, and it won’t occur to most teenagers to care.

If they had an unlimited amount of time to learn about compound vs. fixed interest mortgages (and how some of them change terms based on current interest rates) and other such imperative things, I’d agree with you.

But they’ll be 18 (or 19, or 21) in no time and getting their first (complimentary) credit card in the mail, or at least a bank account soon.

I’d love to keep them from all the vultures looking to squeeze them when money is essential to living in the world. Learning those skills past that magical “adult” age is too late. Most people don’t care about these things and won’t ever learn them anyways.

That’s what that Business Math elective taught me.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Learning those skills past that magical "adult" age is too late. Most people don’t care about these things and won’t ever learn them anyways.

Which is exactly my point. What I learnt (at least partially) at school was that when I’m about to enter into a complex, legally binding relationship that I don’t understand, I should take the time to research it and understand it before I do so using the tools for learning that I have. From what I’ve read about it, this is not the way the US educational system functions and increasingly it is not the way the UK educational system functions (probably because it’s hard to count and put on a league table).

Will B. says:

Re: Re: My bonus Pedant Points for the day;

The phrase “Much less” should be used the opposite of how you are using. The broad, simple case, much less the narrow, complex case. The idea is we can’t even do the simple / general thing, so we certainly can’t do the comples / specific thing.
“We rarely teach children to navigate these simple systems, much less how to beat them.”

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well then, obviously we need to change the law if navigating copyright and IP laws is so difficult it has to be considered a ‘life skill’.

This!

Though, sadly, it’s even worse than that in that all too often the corporations and the government enforcement they buy don’t have any better idea of what the law actually means or how it applies in a usual impossibly tangled real situation than the afor-mentioned -7-year-olds.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

This is why you don’t blindly depend on the schools for *all* your kids’ education. You need to pass on lessons and experience that the schools won’t.

(“Yes, popping a paper bag in the mall makes a very loud noise. Yes, you can hear it echoing all through the place, including a strong echo from the very far end of the mall. Yes, mall cops are all dicks.”)

That includes the principle you too have rights regarding intellectual property and that a lot of file sharing is neither illegal nor immoral.

takitus (profile) says:

Priorities

Apparently “A basic understanding of IP” does not include an understanding of basic concepts like fair use or the public domain, let alone any of modern alternatives to copyright maximalism—Creative Commons, et al.

Apparently the creators of this nonsense also don’t consider it a problem if children who believe their bullshit stop using Wikipedia or other open/free resources because “it is stealing”. Is there also a video about how creators who use free content licenses are villains destroying the market for copyright maximalists?

No matter what your definition of education, this is a disservice to any person interested in learning. An educational organization that doesn’t protest this spreading of FUD in its classrooms is not really concerned with education.

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