Friday, June 02, 2006

Oh Canada

Meet Captain Copyright, the latest attempt to teach kids about the virtues of copyright law. This one-sided educational affair from Access Copyright, supporting all the fantasies of Big Content, is being taught in many Canadian schools to kids anywhere from first through eighth grade. Misleading is probably an understatement and Michael Geist has done a good job going through the teaching materials to highlight the extent of the deception (ie. you can't copy music for private use). Activity 5, directed at third through sixth graders, is a student letter writing campaign to the editors of local newspapers about copyright. I'm not sure I can think of a more disingenuous tactic to feign public support for oppressive copyrights then by goading students (we're talking 7 to 10 year olds here) to join Big Content's astroturf campaign.

This kind of behavior isn't all that new from those seeking to create a copyright owner biased copyright system. However, if we were really going to be sticklers about the law, like good ol' Captain Copyright would like us to be, then Captain Copyright would be guilty of copyright infringement. Oh the irony!

To let you know what Captain Copyright thinks of fair use, the disclaimer provides that:
...permission to link [to Captain Copyright] is explicitly withheld from any website the contents of which may, in the opinion of the Access Copyright, be damaging or cause harm to the reputation of Access Copyright.
And:
You are not permitted to copy or cut from any page or its HTML source code to the Windows™ clipboard (or equivalent on other platforms) onto any other website.
Oops. I suppose they won't like accusations that their site is intellectually dishonest or that I didn't bother to retype myself these quotes from their legal disclaimer. Well, the problem with these restriction is that Captain Copyright quotes Wikipedia in its materials regarding ISBN's and the restrictions violates Wikipedia's GNU License which requires that anyone who uses Wikipedia's free material must also share it freely. I wonder how Captain Copyright would deal with that moral dilemma.

As a further note, in one of the comics on the site, it turns out that Captain Copyright's is the owner of a campus bookstore by day. In this particular episode, he convinces several students to abandon the discount book store and to go buy the REAL books. What a perfect lesson to be teaching kids! What these children will soon learn is the benefit of going to college is the prospect of buying several $100+ books each semester that can't be resold because the publisher puts out a new edition every year.

Here's to hoping that the youth are smart enough to see through the scam. But since kids are generally deemed too dumb to think for themselves (see protecting kids from cigarettes, booze, and MySpace) they are never given the information they need to actually begin to think for themselves. If they did, they probably would disagree with their parents sooner or later, which would defeat the whole purpose of teaching them the lessons they "need to learn." All I have to say is that if Joe Camel ain't legit, then Captain Copyright has to say aloha as well.
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