teach, don’t preach

The 20th century will linger so long as students are taught this:

When the concept was explained that they were obtaining a product that they did not pay for and it was essentially stealing from the artist and the recording company they seemed to understand […]

They “seemed” to understand because they’ve been told a subtle lie. What students need “explained” is that they have violated 20th century copyright law in need of reform to fit our 21st century technology. Then they need to see the difference between physical objects and intangible information. Then they need to see how Big Media ignores this difference every time it claims downloading to be “stealing” and that “piracy” must be fought to “protect the artists”. Students need to see that the analogy with sensate “products” is deceptive propaganda used to encourage thinking of copyrighted works as “property” when nothing could be further from the truth.

If we get this far then we need to explain to students that change can occur if we work toward it. We need to remind students that although they are doing absolutely nothing wrong by file-sharing, it’s against the law – so they do so at their own risk. We need to inform them that change can happen without disobedience – but only if they work for it. We need to expose students to innovative projects demonstrating that copyright need not necessarily be an all-or-nothing venture. We need to educate students with b o o k s that challenge us to become aware of and think deeply about, world-wide digital networks and their intersection with copyright law. Most importantly, we need to ask students about the ethics of file-sharing. And just as importantly, the ethics of those that fight it.

In short, the worst thing we can do is encourage industrial age thinking when the networked information economy is knocking at our door.


6 Responses to “teach, don’t preach”

  1. DiaRIAA Says:

    Mr. Rock, just who is doing the preaching here? The artists we protect put a lot of work into making their product. If we don’t fight for the rights of artists to protect their Intellectual Property from being stolen who will? It is sad that teachers like you are encouraging young minds to engage in piracy. Apparently, you think education is being skilled at thievery.

  2. Open Thinking & Digital Pedagogy » Teach, Don’t Preach Says:

    […] My friend Peter Rock at gnuosphere always does a great job at voicing important issues that I’m sometimes weary to touch. Peter is confrontational on many important issues of freedom, such this one. […]

  3. TeacherJay Says:

    Peter, here’s the problem with your argument… students did violate a law. Perhaps that law that needs to updated for the 21st century, but it hasn’t yet. There are methods for artists and other creators of media to release their works into a public domain, such as using Creative Commons, but they didn’t! Copyrighted works are property and their use needs to at least be acknowledged. If you break down a barrier that would allow the downloading of copyrighted music and other forms of intellectual property what’s to say that a student could not take text from websites mash them together and write a paper from it with no attribution of sources… does it happen?: YES; is it right?: NO.

  4. gnuosphere Says:

    TJ says:

    Peter, here’s the problem with your argument… students did violate a law.

    Did I say (or even imply?) they did not? In my post I even suggested that teachers remind students that downloading copyrighted works without permission (assuming it is needed) is an illegal act.

    Copyrighted works are property

    This is not true. Property is tangible. A work under copyright is not. Therefore, a copyrighted work is not property.

    and their use needs to at least be acknowledged.

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    If you break down a barrier […]”

    That is, antiquated copyright law.

    that would allow the downloading of copyrighted music […]

    That is, “legalize sharing”.

    and other forms of intellectual property

    This makes no sense. This is one of numerous examples of the confusion the propaganda term “Intellectual Property” perpetuates. For instance, you can’t “download” a patent like you could a copyrighted photo or trademarked design and/or phrase. With regard to patent law, the only thing you can download is the legal claim to such. A patent cannot be downloaded as it is too abstract. Patents cover ideas, not a resultant expression of thought. If we wish to discuss this matter seriously, we must avoid the term “Intellectual Property”. It has no meaningful value.

    what’s to say that a student could not take text from websites mash them together and write a paper from it with no attribution of sources […]

    For one, you are – and possibly, other community members. The most important thing is a teacher who will engage with the student in order to teach why it is not OK to plagiarize. And if the plagiarism causes significant harm, an attributive copyright license could provide legal recourse. But generally, the issue of plagiarism is more of an issue of policy within your own school…not copyright law.

  5. Michael Says:

    It’s nice to see a clearer, more developed picture of your thoughts on this than you presented in this post and the subsequent comments.

    I’m happy you’re not asking repeatedly (and somewhat annoyingly), “What did Jammie (a file-sharer who’s being prosecuted) do wrong?”…. It’s nice to know that you’ve known all along, that she broke the law and that’s what she’s being punished for. After reading this post, I realize I agreed with you much more than i thought. But I could’ve never seen that from all the arguing and defending and line-by-line deconstruction you do on everyone’s comments.

    Personally, I think you have very good thoughts on the subject, but they are so muddled in your arguing and passionate defense in your comments. Sometimes, people aren’t even disagreeing with you much; they just simply misunderstood what you wrote. And their response is merely a reflection of the misunderstanding. And you going word by word, line by line, taking apart what they said — just seems to muddle readers’ perceptions of what you are saying. Sometimes people just misuse a word or phrase something differently than you, and you go off arguing about that word or phrase.

    With all that said, I think I more clearly see what you’re saying and I think i agree with you much more than I initially thought. I said I wouldn’t be back here but I came back after I saw in my blog stats that a visitor came to my blog from here. I might come back and check it out from time to time…maybe. But I’m pretty sure I won’t be commenting much. This blog isn’t very comment-friendly, it seems. (And I expect something like a line-by-line breakdown of my comment here…maybe not a line-by-line one. I think maybe this parenthetical comment might’ve prevented that. Or maybe you’ll do one anyway. Looking forward to it…haha).

  6. gnuosphere Says:

    Michael, thanks for your feedback. I won’t “deconstruct” your comment. :)

    Though I think it is important to be critical of what is said in blog posts/comments to expose deeper thinking, I’ll reflect upon what you’ve said. Perhaps I do go further than need be at times. I might have scared TeacherJay away. :)

    That’d be great if you stopped by here once in a while. Since you first stopped in, Hopping Into Puddles has been in my aggregator…you’ve got some interesting things to say yourself.

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