This just in from the Department of Are They Kidding?
The 52,000 Boy Scouts in Los Angeles have a new virtue to strive for: respect for copyrights. In return for learning about the harms of downloading pirated movies and music, they will be awarded an activity patch showing a film reel, a music CD and the international copyright symbol, a “C” enclosed in a circle, The Associated Press reported.
By means of a curriculum devised by the movie industry, the Scouts will be instructed in basic copyright law and learn to identify five types of copyrighted works and three ways that copyrighted materials may be stolen. In addition, they must choose an activity from a list that includes visiting a movie studio to see how many people may be harmed by film piracy, and creating public services announcements urging others not to steal music or movies.
“Working with the Boy Scouts of Los Angeles, we have a real opportunity to educate a new generation about how movies are made, why they are valuable and hopefully change attitudes about intellectual property theft,” said Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Gee, when I was a Boy Scout (I rose to the august rank of Star Scout and junior assistant scoutmaster), the Scout Law was: “I will be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” Now, to that we have to add “a snitch,” “a bore,” and “a moral pedant.”
The MPAA is teaming up with the Boy Scouts to offer an activity badge that would inculcate respect for corporate copyrights into the minds of impressionable young people. According to ArsTechnica, the “official curriculum” (I use that word advisedly) calls on the Scout to do things like the following:
“Research peer to peer websites—describe to your troop what they are and how they are sometimes used to illegally trade copyrighted materials.
There are peer to peer groups who offer legal downloads and those who offer illegal downloads. Make a list of both. Suggest ways to detect peer to peer software like the MPAA Parent File Scan.”
The article editorializes quite aptly:
That’s right—kids are supposed to encourage other kids to go home and run Parent File Scan on their machines. This is a piece of software that simply lists all file-swapping applications and media files (whether legal or illegal) on a user’s hard drive. Encouraging kids to do this…seems a mite creepy, but what’s truly disconcerting about the program is that it’s not designed to teach kids about copyright at all. It’s designed to teach them to “respect copyrights.”
That little difference is important, because the curriculum appears to offer no guidance regarding fair use, public domain material, the limited duration of such rights, and why you aren’t allowed to make backup copies of DVDs that you purchased. Instead, students are asked to “go to a movie and stay through all of the credits. Tell your counselor and/or troop leader who you think, in addition to the main actors and actresses, would be hurt if that film were stolen?”
My first impression was to say: “Who in their right mind at the Boy Scouts would agree to this lame proposition?” Then I figured the MPAA must’ve paid them to get them to do this. But incredibly, the LA Times says that it was the Boy Scouts who came up with the concept and that no money has exchanged hands:
Officials at the Scouts’ Los Angeles Area Council said they approached the MPAA with the idea nine months ago, emphasizing that the entertainment industry lobbying group did not make financial donations to secure the badge program.
Which only means that the Boy Scouts leaders are out of their minds and totally out of touch with their own charges and youth in general; rather than being venal money-grubbing lugheads. I don’t know which is worse.
Oh, and we’re meant to feel grateful that the L.A. Scouts didn’t adopt the Hong Kong version of this Scouts program by which the young ones are encouraged to visit internet sites and report those who are violating the law. That approach is much too draconian for our American boys. Merely becoming insufferable moral puritans and flacking for the corporate interests of the entertainment industry is quite sufficient for them, thank you.
Maybe if we had Dan Glickman and George Bush switch jobs so that MPAA ran our Iraq policy and Bush ran MPAA’s copyright evangelism program, then we’d have a lot less death and a lot more filesharing in the world. Both individuals seem pretty incompetent at what they’re trying to do respectively. Hey, it’s just a thought.