Larry Iser Quoted in Financial Times

Hollywood Takes Piracy Fight to Schools

By Matthew Garrahan in Los Angeles

Hollywood movie studios and music labels are taking the fight against illegal content sharing to five-year-olds by sponsoring a new anti-piracy curriculum, which will be trialled in California schools.

The curriculum, which will be aimed at elementary schoolchildren in kindergarten to sixth grade, has the support of the Motion Picture Association of America, the Hollywood lobbying group that represents the big film studios, and the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents music labels.

The Centre for Copyright Information, which was formed by the MPAA, RIAA and five US internet service providers – Verizon, AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast and Time Warner Cable – sponsored Internet Keep Safe, a non-profit group, to draft the curriculum.

Marsali Hancock, president of iKeepSafe, wrote in a blog post that the curriculum would teach “students important concepts of creativity, ownership, attribution, sharing, copyright, and fair use”. It is part of a broader digital curriculum that also explores online safety and reputation. Schools in California will be free to adopt the curriculum as they see fit; iKeepSafe hopes eventually to extend the scheme to other states.

Ms Hancock told the Financial Times that the MPAA and RIAA had no influence over the curriculum. “They’re not on my board and there’s no long-term relationship that we have with them.” The lobbying groups were “not shaping what we are creating for educators,” she said.

Content piracy is a big problem for the music and film industries, with illegally streamed movies and music hurting sales. Estimates for revenues lost to piracy vary: the MPAA has for the past few years relied on a 2007 study by the Institute for Policy Innovation, which claimed that piracy of film, music, software and video games cost the industry $58bn in annual total output. Other analysts dispute this figure.

Media companies have been keen to improve anti-piracy measures since the failure of the Stop Online Piracy Act [Sopa] last year. The bill, and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, had broad backing in Hollywood and would have prevented search engines from directing users to pirated content.

However, when technology groups – including Google – campaigned against it and outraged internet users bombarded members of Congress, the legislation was shelved and President Barack Obama eventually withdrew his support.

Supporters of intellectual property rights protection hailed the proposed curriculum. “This is a no-brainer,” said Lawrence Iser, an IP lawyer with Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert, who sued John McCain on behalf of Jackson Browne when the US senator used one of the singer’s songs in his 2008 election campaign. “I can’t conceive of who would oppose teaching kids a fundamental aspect of the US constitution, which is copyright,” Mr Iser said.

But others expressed concern. “It bothers me that it’s kindergarteners to sixth grade,” said Stephen Smith, an attorney specialising in entertainment law with Greenberg Glusker. “It’s like: let’s get them early and brainwash them.”

Source: Matthew Garrahan, Financial Times