Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sorry but I have to comment

The wires are ablaze with news that some Los Angeles members of the Boy Scouts of America can earn the "Respect Copyrights" patch.  Apparently this patch is a product of teamwork between the BSA and the MPAA and involves such activities as learning about P2P file sharing systems, attend a movie and sit through all the credits and later list all the people that might be hurt by stealing the movie, along with several other requirements.  There has been a steady stream of negative comments about this story including one along the lines of "the MPAA is recruiting the BSA to do it's dirty work".

First, this story is not an attack on the BSA and so I will not dwell on my many years of service in the BSA except to say that I have been an assistance ScoutMaster and currently serve as ScoutMaster and know the BSA to be the finest club for young men on the planet.

Second, I want to say that I agree with the stories I've read that make the case that the requirements of the patch leave out several key areas including fair use, public domain items, as well as legal use of P2P file sharing system.  Apparently one of the requirements of the patch involves encouraging friends to run some "Parent File Scan" on the home computer.  While I know very little about this software, it apparently lists all the file sharing tools that are on a computer along with media available to these tools whether legally obtained or not.  This amounts to asking the kids to spy on their parents or siblings and is completely wrong and cannot be defended.

My main reason for commenting is that I find this whole scenario reflecting a certain prevailing feeling that any form of DRM is wrong and should not be allowed.  I agree that current DRM forms fail completely and violate fair use in a number of ways but that does not change the fact that an artist who works hard to create an album or movie has a right to protect that content and expect a return on their investment.  What's unbelievable is that people are honestly outraged that we are teaching our children that taking something that doesn't belong to them is wrong.  Ripping a CD or movie that you don't own is absolutely no different than walking into a Wal-Mart and pocketing a CD off the rack.  We would never allow our children to do this and yet we scream and yell when the RIAA and MPAA try to stop the same thing.

Moreover, how many people do you know that buy a CD , rip the music to a computer in the house, and then download that music to one or more portable music devices.  At some point, the music might be playing on the home computer and in all of the portables at the same time which is a clear violation.  And yet so many never even consider that.

I have as much dislike for the RIAA and MPAA as the next man and it does seem like this patch is slanted more to the goals of the MPAA and less to actual teaching of all aspects of file sharing.  Nevertheless, being outraged that some Scouts are out there teaching each other that it's wrong to steal is just stupid.

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