Access Copyright has launched a new site that borders on parody, but is apparently serious. Captain Copyright, is a new "superhero" that educates children about the virtues of copyright, rushing to the scene in the event that someone publishes research without proper credit. While my first reaction to the site was that it is just silly, as I dug deeper, I now find it shameful. These materials, targeting kids as young as six years old, misrepresents many issues and proposes classroom activities that are offensive.
In addition to the Captain Copyright series, there are a series of "games" and educational activities targeting kids and teachers beginning in Grade One. These so-called activities are of particular interest to me since one of my kids is currently in Grade Two and another starts Grade One in September. It is pointless to go through each exercise to point to the misconceptions and half-truths that it seeks to bring into my child's classroom, but a few merit comment.
private copying copyright education Activity Four, which provides a situational exercise, is designed to teach kids about the limits of copyright law. The kids are to be asked about a music download and the printing of a class exercise in a textbook. Teachers are advised in the Line Master that "a person can download a song off the Internet where they pay for it or get permission" and "a person cannot copy a song that they have legally downloaded for someone else." There is no mention of private copying which may cover the first example. In the second example, it is true that you cannot private copy for someone else, but that person can make their own private copy. The lesson continues by stating that "permission is needed to reproduce all of the work that you have written." There is no reference to user rights, which are particularly relevant in the education context.
Incredibly, it gets worse. Activity Two seeks to build respect for the copyright symbol by asking the grade one students to role play by seeking copyright permission and to sell their copyright work. Activity Three asks the students to picture a world without copyright and to discuss whether their favourite book or song would still be created. Activity Six celebrates creativity by having the class create a group book with an additional page for the copyright notice. Activity Seven envisions grade one students creating their own copyright permission form.
When the students move on to Grades Three to Six, they write a letter to the editor supporting copyright. Students in Grades Six to Eight, learn about copyright exceptions. The exercise only references public domain materials and public performances with no mention of fair dealing; instead, the exercise focuses on photocopy licenses.
Our children need to develop a love of learning, a passion for creativity, and an appreciation for the arts and sciences. These exercises provide none of that. Instead, they stoop to a level I have not previously seen in Canadian copyright. They are an embarrassment that should not find their way into any classroom in the country.