Comic Books Carry Copyright Propaganda for Kids

Two Years in Jail for File Sharing
The National Center for State Courts has distributed 50,000 comic books and teachers’ guides to explain how courts work to America’s youth. As the Threat Level blog notes, the plot “reads like the Recording Industry Association of America’s public relations playbook: Download some songs, go to jail and lose your scholarship. Along the way, musicians will file onto the bread lines.

The educational guide is factually wrong about the application of the law in its own text. Megan, the story’s impoverished orphan protagonist, is visited by the a policeman with a summons to criminal court for downloading songs. This would, in fact, be a civil action, and likely start with a notice delivered by a postman giving her the chance to pay off the RIAA. Her sentence is probation, and community service is where she explains how fortunate she was to have been caught before her actions really hurt others.

Donald Duck Sends Artists to Breadlines
In the Netherlands, downloading music for your personal use is totally legal. But Disney’s Donald Duck magazine warns Dutch youth about the evils of bootlegging tunes and selling them on the street. Huey, Dewey and Louie tell their uncle this would be fair, as “If nobody buys CDs anymore, the record labels and artists will become beggars.”

Fortunately, Donald is caught by his uncle Scrooge McDuck, who is the boss of recording label (how’s that for casting)? Scrooge warns Donald that he’ll have to pay lots of money unless he stops bootlegging. So that’s Disney’s entertaining message for Dutch children: “obey or pay.”

Both Disney and this association of courts have talent and good intent, yet their products are pretty poor. They had a chance to enrich, educate or entertain, and instead they told scary stories that promote a skewed view of our world. The lessons passed on to children shouldn’t be half-thought-through melodramas, or worse, commercial propaganda posing as entertainment. Both organizations could do better, and perhaps communicate a more positive message about intellectual property.

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