Boy Scout Magazine Says Don't Listen To Legally Burned CDs, As They're Too Similar To Piracy

from the apparently,-someone-failed-their-legal-merit-badge dept

Four years ago, the MPAA worked with the local Los Angeles chapter of the Boy Scouts of America to create a special "activity patch" for Boy Scouts to repeat propaganda about how evil file sharing is. For some reason, that story got renewed attention earlier this year, when a few sources came across the 2006 story without checking the date on it. While there's really nothing new on that story, it does appear that the Boy Scouts are making some absolutely ridiculous suggestions to parents about how to talk to your kids about copyright issues.

That link is to an article in the latest issue of Scouting Magazine, supposedly about the "ethics" of file sharing, and how parents should talk to their children about it. And, yet, it's entirely one-sided, quoting the RIAA's claims about "losses," but oddly leaving out the stacks upon stacks upon stacks upon stacks of research showing that musicians are making more money these days, via alternative business models. You would think that would be a relevant part of the discussion... but it's totally absent. Someone, apparently, failed their "research the facts" merit badge.

But where the article goes totally off the rails is in telling parents that their children are too stupid to understand the nuances of copyright law, and because of that, they should take an extreme position: one so extreme that they shouldn't even listen to legally burned CDs:
So how can Scouters teach ethical behavior related to music downloading? One way: Set a good example. When you haul around Scouts in your car, for example, only play CDs that you've purchased. If you play CDs that you've burned--even if they're legal--your Scouts may not recognize the difference between those and the pirated CDs friends have given them.
The article also tries to blame musicians who embrace alternative business models for making the situation more confusing:
Part of the problem, [Dr. Tony] Aretz says, lies in the Internet's free-for-all nature, where users get all sorts of content free--even information from newspapers that they would have to pay for in the real world. Bands like Radiohead have further complicated the situation by giving their music away or offering it on a "pay what you want" basis.
Note to Aretz and Scouting magazine: the internet is the real world too. And bands like Radiohead haven't "further complicated the situation." They've helped make it clear that there are smart business models that can be embraced while not turning your fans into criminals. It would seem like that's a rather important lesson one should teach Boy Scouts.

Filed Under: boy scouts, ethics, piracy


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  1. icon
    Thomas O'Toole (profile), 1 Oct 2010 @ 11:14am

    unfair to the scouts

    Mike, I understand the point you are trying to make here about copyright law and the music business -- and I pretty much agree with you on all of it. But you are being unfair to the scouts.

    Yes, Dr. Aretz has a confused outlook on copyright law. And the connection he makes between plagiarism (which is about intellectual honesty) and piracy (theft) is inapt.

    Yes, Pavarotti is dead wrong about the music business. But he is a great artist, so I forgive his short-sightedness.

    And yes, it is regrettable that the scouts have allied themselves with a business lobby group that is "educating" young people on a very contentious public policy matter.

    Nevertheless, the basic point that the article is trying to make is that adult scout leaders should be careful about the messages they are sending to young kids in their care. I agree with that message. Scouting-age kids don't know about space-shifting, or time-shifting, or fair use, or content licensing, or the difference between a performance right and a distribution right, or any of that stuff. They don't know about the stress that copyright law is under right now, they don't know that the artist and the recording company might have very different views on piracy, they don't know about all the stuff that is discussed on your blog every day. Kids definitely should not be taught one industry's position on copyright law as part of boy scouts.

    All these kids know is that they like music. I think that when kids see an adult scout leader put a burned CD into a CD player they have a vague sense that the leader might be doing something wrong. This vague sense that the leader has done something wrong is the same as what happens if the leader smokes a cigarette, drinks alcohol, curses, says an unkind thing about another person, burps, farts, whatever. These things are all entirely lawful, but kids have been taught that these things are bad. The idea that burning a CD is "bad" comes from outside scouting -- kids already have a sense (perhaps mistaken in many instances) that it is not right. So, when the scout leader plays that burned CD, he or she loses a little bit of credibility, a little bit of trust, from the kids. And this makes it more difficult for the leader/adult to speak with conviction about all of the other values that scouting stands for.

    I've been in scouts for a while. I'm a den leader for my seven-year-old son, the youngest of my six children. We've never talked about file-sharing or piracy or any of that stuff. I doubt we ever will. But we have talked about integrity and honesty, hard work, and respect for public institutions and for each other. A scout leader can't effectively communicate these values if the kids think he or she is cutting corners in his or her personal life. Burning CDs is one of those areas where appearances matter. At least I think so. Kids don't know copyright law, but every kid over the age of five knows the word "hypocrite."

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