Piracy in Education | Print |
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Written by Barry Starlin Britt   

“Piracy is stealing and it doesn't just keep Lady Gaga and Angelina Jolie from making a few more dollars," says Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

"This crime affects artists, writers, directors, backup singers, stage crew workers and every taxpayer in the U.S."

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) states that “each year sound recording piracy results in the loss of more than 70,000 sound recording or retail jobs, $2 billion in wages and $422 million tax revenue in the U.S. The overall impact of this crime on the U.S. economy amounts to $12.5 billion.”

“On behalf of the major U.S. music labels, we thank the Utah State Attorney General’s Office and ICE/ERO for their efforts to clamp down on counterfeiting and piracy,” says Marcus Cohen, RIAA Western Region Director of Investigations.”  This historic enforcement action has resulted in heightened consumer awareness and sends a strong message that this kind of illegal activity won’t be tolerated in the state of Utah.”

These 3 quotations appear in a February 14, 2011 press release from the Utah Office of the Attorney General Mark Shurtleff after the state seized nearly 30,000 illegally pirated movies and music discs through a strike force aimed at stopping major crimes committed by illegal aliens.

This type of piracy is not only committed by criminals, but also by average citizens, who, whether willingly or unknowingly, pirate these types of commodities every day, and, they are equally prosecuted. Through first-hand experience, we have witnessed piracy in U.S. schools, and these institutions that should value the ownership of others are actually justifying these actions of piracy.

Illegally copying and distributing music CD’s or selling bootlegged DVD’s are no different than students using Limewire to share music files or teachers publishing free resources online that are licensed commodities of companies or publishers.
It is important to bring awareness to this topic of piracy in education so that other teachers, students, parents and administrators can prevent piracy in their organizations.

The justification that I have heard first-hand from teachers and students is based on two common myths that should be dispelled:

Myth #1:  The Billion-Dollar Babies
One of the most common myths among educators is that everyone who works in the music or movie industry is rich.  Many teachers, coordinators and administrators in education mention to me directly that they are unsympathetic to the “money-makers” making even more money.  But the truth is, most writers, publishers and creators of musical content make far less money than the average teacher on an annual basis.

Furthermore, it is important to mention that major movie and music companies such as Sony, Universal, Time Warner and EMI, must not only pay their artists, but they also employ security guards, janitors, cafeteria workers and a long list of others who rely on the sales and proper licensing of media to support their families.  Many individuals working in these various roles have lost their jobs form piracy in the industry.

Myth #2:  Schools, Districts, Teachers, Students and Parents are not being sued.

Actually, schools, districts, teachers and the parents of students who are minors have been sued in mass numbers and many of these cases have been settled out of court.

In the introduction video at The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education, someone states that no one is getting sued for Fair Use.  It is more accurate to say that no teacher or student is getting sued for the proper application of Fair Use for legally procured content.

Here is an example:  In 2005, a large and affluent school district in the southeastern U.S. was using short clips of popular music on their cable broadcast station.  The students were also using 30 seconds or less of popular music for their video yearbooks that were posted online.  They did claim Fair Use, but Fair Use states that background music does not qualify according to the guidelines.  Also, the student projects were posted online, and the cable station is considered as broadcast, both of which further disqualified this as being Fair Use. 

When the district was cited for unrelated public performance violations in their performing arts department, it was discovered that the students had illegally shared the music files in the school’s system at Limewire.com.  The result was 38 various lawsuits totaling over $30 million dollars.  In addition, the parents of guilty students who published the audio files on the file-sharing network were sued individually.  The schools, parents, and the district supposedly settled out of court and Limewire has since been shut down as of October of 2010.

There are numerous violations of pirated music, movies and software that have made their way into the classroom.  In many cases, media forms such as music have been synchronized to other multimedia projects and published back onto the web to warrant further violations.

Also, the very act of copying software to additional computers and selling or duplicating projects that incorporate music, movies, photographs and images are further forms of piracy that affects our economy.

Fair Use vs. Fair Abuse

The reason it is important to talk about Fair Use and the Teach Act in relation to piracy is that you cannot claim Fair Use if the media you are using has been illegally procured or shared.  Knowing the origin of the media content you synchronize with your videos and podcasts is critical.  Also, staying within the license limitations of the media or software you are using will serve as an added precaution to protect yourself and your organization from piracy, penalties, lawsuits and out-of-court settlements.

It’s for the kids
This seems to be yet another justification for education.  Personally speaking, I had the benefit of having some great teachers who not only exercised proper Fair Use, but also included properly licensed resources and a written permissions process.  I think these teachers taught me far more than teachers who were prone to privacy or Fair Abuse.

Why it Matters
Over the last 10 years, we have seen a startling number of students who have left high school with no knowledge of media permissions and a vague understanding of copyright and frequent use of pirated content.  Next, these students enter college or the workforce bringing major lawsuits on themselves, their schools or companies because they were not properly instructed.  So, the way that we are educating on the topic of piracy also affects our workforce and economy.

In next month’s School Vide News article, we will look at specific steps and procedures you can use to prevent piracy in education.


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