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Selling Kids on Legal Music

Jeff has a great post about the difficulty he has discussing the ethics of illegally downloading music files with his middle school students. And he has a tougher job than most of us.

In Shanghai, China where he teaches, courts have ruled that a web site was not guilty of copyright violations by providing search tools to find music downloads.

If the legal system says finding the files is ok, shouldn’t it be ok for me to click the link and download them?

Jeff’s thoughts tie very nicely into an article in the current issue of Technology Review that discusses how downloading, legal and illegal, is “messing with the business of music”.

The industry’s response to the threat of piracy has been threefold: to use digital rights management (DRM) software to limit illicit copying and distribution; to discourage file sharing through lawsuits; and to attempt to exploit the new technology in ways that preserve high profit margins.

By most accounts, the first two strategies are doomed and will eventually be abandoned. But the third has been much more successful.

So, the music industry needs to figure out the price point for a song that would cause Jeff’s students to stop grabbing their tracks online without paying for it.

The CEO of eMusic, the second-largest seller of music downloads, is not sure lower prices are even the issue.

Pakman doesn’t believe that eMusic’s low prices are seducing anyone away from piracy, though. “Our customers are really not the piracy-prone customers,” he says. “I think that generally, piracy is the domain of youth, and we just don’t focus on the youth customer. So we don’t see piracy as eating into our ability to sell music.”

But what happens when today’s piratical youths, unintimidated by file-sharing technology and accustomed to free music, become adults?

Good question.

Another is implicit in Jeff’s entry: how do we teach respect for copyright to our students?

copyright, piracy, music, downloads

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3 Comments

  1. > how do we teach respect for copyright to our students?

    Do you really think this is the most important thing they could be learning right now?

    How about teaching the virtues of sharing, or of cooperation? How about looking at things like peaceful conflict resolution, mediation skills, and negotiation?

    There’s so much more they could be learning, things that have nothing to do with kowtowing to greedy corporations or showing obsequiousness to pointless oddments of morality (some of which, as you point out here, do not even violate the law).

    ‘Respecting copyright’ – quite rightly – just isn’t high in today’s teens’ priorities. And shouldn’t be in ours, either. There are much more pressing moral issues – things like global poverty, the environment, and ongoing military conflicts.

  2. Tim

    Please read my posts a little closer. I never said this is “the most important thing they could be learning right now”.

    However, it should certainly be part of the mix, as should teaching kids about their fair use rights when it comes to any kind of media. And, as implied in the previous post, how to circumvent DRM when necessary to exercise those rights.

  3. “If the legal system says finding the files is ok, shouldn’t it be ok for me to click the link and download them?”

    These two issues are independent. Whether or not it is ethically OK to download is a question to be answered by one’s conscience and common sense, not the law.

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