Teach, Don’t Preach

My friend Peter Rock at gnuosphere always does a great job at voicing important issues that I’m sometimes weary to touch. Peter is confrontational on many important issues of freedom, such this one.

Peter reacts to a post from Teacher Jay who writes on his reflections in his classroom as he teaches his students why it’s wrong and illegal to download music content. Teacher Jay writes:

When the concept was explained that they were obtaining a product that they did not pay for and it was essentially stealing from the artist and the recording company they (the students) seemed to understand […]

Peter reacts, writing:

They “seemed” to understand because they’ve been told a subtle lie. What students need “explained” is that they have violated 20th century copyright law in need of reform to fit our 21st century technology. Then they need to see the difference between physical objects and intangible information. Then they need to see how Big Media ignores this difference every time it claims downloading to be “stealing” and that “piracy” must be fought to “protect the artists”. Students need to see that the analogy with sensate “products” is deceptive propaganda used to encourage thinking of copyrighted works as “property” when nothing could be further from the truth.

I may get some bashing here, but I agree with Peter. If you decide to react, read his point carefully. To describe the issue of music downloading without bringing in the contextual issues of corporate power over creative processes (read: culture), and simply telling your students that “it’s stealing, it’s illegal thus it’s immoral” is theft in itself. In very real terms, you are denying your students the liberty and freedom to critique issues of power in our society. Instead, what about being critical of the very idea of “intellectual property.” Or, what about discussing the potential benefits of free culture? No matter how you approach the topic, whether from a copyright or copyleft approach, critical debate on this topic is necessary. The world is changing for our students, there are many challenges ahead, and they need the tools to solve these issues themselves.

Additional note: I just noticed that Downes mentioned the book “The Starfish and the Spider” today on OLDaily. I read this a while back, and chapter one does an excellent job of explaining the need for decentralized leadership, and uses the music downloading developments since Napster as a key example.