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Coming soon to kindergarten class: antipiracy ed

Entertainment industry representatives say their messages to teens and college kids aren't working. Some are hoping for better luck with the elementary-school set.

WASHINGTON--Tired of their antipiracy messages being ignored by the teen- and college-age set, the entertainment industry is attempting to indoctrinate far younger disciples.

Representatives from the Entertainment Software Association, the video game industry's trade group, and the Canadian Recording Industry Association shed some light on their strategies at an antipiracy summit hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce here.

Screenshot of the video game industry's copyright curriculum Web site

"In the 15- to 24-year-old (range), reaching that demographic with morality-based messages is an impossible proposition...which is why we have really focused our efforts on elementary school children," said Ric Hirsch, the ESA's senior vice president of intellectual property enforcement. "At those ages, children are open to receiving messages, guidelines, rules of the road, if you will, with respect to intellectual property."

The ESA has gone so far as to develop a copyright education curriculum geared toward the kindergarten through fifth-grade set. Since 2005, the organization has been trying to find ways to get teachers to incorporate its tenets into their everyday lessons, although Hirsch did not say how successful that effort has been. The components, which include charts, teachers guides, lesson plans and a wall poster imploring students to "Join the © Team," are also now available online.

The reason for targeting youth at that age is that they're at an "inflection point" where they're just learning how to use computers and the Internet, and the classroom seems a perfect opportunity for delivering copyright education, Hirsch said. The ESA devised its own curriculum after finding "very little out there in the form of institutional education addressing this issue," he said.

The video game industry isn't alone in trying to infiltrate classrooms with its antipiracy messages, although it appears to be targeting younger kids than some of its counterparts. The Recording Industry Association of America offers a similar set of curriculum ideas, but none of them appears to target students younger than third grade. The Motion Picture Association of America last year released a "Respect Copyrights" curriculum (PDF) tailored to merit-badge-seeking Boy Scouts in the Los Angeles area.

Some fair-use advocates have argued the copyright-dependent industries send contradictory messages through such materials. They've criticized, for example, an RIAA video intended for college students that they argue gives mixed messages about when it's legal to copy music for personal listening or to share with friends.

The Canadian record industry group, for its part, would like to work with provincial governments to help schools develop their own copyright-minded curriculums "so it's's not something they're tacking on," said Graham Henderson, the group's president.

Youthful voices may be able to help to influence parents who themselves don't set such a great example on the copyright-protection front, much in the same way some kids have been able to pressure adults to stop harmful habits like smoking, he suggested.

Parents--and mothers in particular--do represent an important audience to educate, though, Henderson added. That means planting messages in places that may seem less-than-traditional, such as women's interest or general parenting magazines, he said.

I don't know about you, but I have to wonder what's next: exposing babies still in the womb to antipiracy audio messages, a la the so-called Mozart effect?