Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Time for a Copy Cat


The Business Software Alliance (BSA) weasel turns out to be a ferret, and since today he listens to the name Garret. Climbing up a garett in your dreams means your ease of increasing your finances, and thus the "tech savvy kids" made the right choice for the mascot of an organisation that seeks to secure its finances through kids centered propaganda. Renewed propaganda, coming with a new name.

Compared to the Dutch software pig I reported on this is sweet & sugar. I'm not proud of the meanness of the Dutch campaign, but the BSA ferret weasels himself into U.S. classrooms more efficiently. A four-page comic book curriculum called
Copyright Crusader to the Rescue and an accompanying teacher's guide has been mailed to 30,000 teachers, apart from being free for download. It is said to have reached more than one million children and two million parents, with the previous curriculum (Play it Safe in Cyberspace) having reached more than 13 million children, parents and teachers.

I think the teaching of this curriculum to children is morally repulsive. Children should not be confronted with propaganda from any lobbying group in any from, the least on schools. Teachers and schools should provide an environment of objective, critical learning, free of the plague of (commercial) propaganda. Courses in copyright can be fine, as long as they are a balanced, showing both sides of the equation. Though it will always be more easy to speak of copy-theft than fair use to fourth-graders.

This calls for a counter-weasel, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for example. Instead of a Copyright Crusader, a Fair Use Fighter. A natural enemy of the ferret, let's say the bobcat (a kind of lynx), which may also have a taste for a pig once in a while. A Copy Cat that swallows the Copyright Crusader, digests its rhetoric and spits out the hard facts. Any suggestions for its name?
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Update: Talk about synchronous brainwaves: Ed Felten at Freedom to Tinker makes the same point about the difficulty of teaching a fourth-grader the subtleties of copyright, such as fair use, while the "downloading=shoplifting" equation lends itself for easy indoctrination.

Felten refers to a post on the BSA weasel by JD Lasica, which is (even) more in line with this post. Lasica writes:
Having a corporate-sponsored comic book is fine, I suppose, but incorporating this one-sided, misleading propagandist claptrap into the teaching curriculum is an outrage. [...] Somebody -- the EFF? Creative Commons? -- needs to step up, set the record straight, and add some nuance to this discussion. Will the words "fair use" ever pass the lips of the instructors in this program?
My thoughts exactly...

Udate II: Timothy Armstrong notes at Lasica that Downhill Battle has the weasel anti-dote with their Kids Smell Bullshit site. They have also put up a Wiki against the BSA propaganda.


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