'Brainwashing': Hollywood Educational Program for Grade-Schoolers Under Fire

A partnership between ISPs, the MPAA and RIAA will "introduce age-appropriate (non-legal) concepts of sharing and ownership," like illegally downloading movies because "taking without asking is mean."

This story first appeared in the Oct. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Elementary school used to be so simple. ABCs. 123's. Play nice in the sandbox. These days, one third-grader draws a dragon and attempts to sell it in the schoolyard. Another third-grader takes a picture of that on her cell phone.

OK? No, according to a "Be a Creator" curriculum being developed as a pilot program to launch later this year in California elementary schools.

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In the ongoing battle against piracy, the Hollywood-backed program will spell out the evils of theft, whether it's sharing movies online or copying a friend's homework. The grade-specific materials are being prepared by the Internet Keep Safe Coalition in conjunction with the Center for Copyright Information (a partnership between ISPs and content advocates like the MPAA and RIAA).

"Knowing how to create, collaborate, and share responsibly are 21st century skills," writes the coalition's presidentMarsali Hancock on its website. "And teacher-librarians are the best prepared to teach it." Lesson plans for grades K through 6 would "introduce age-appropriate (non-legal) concepts of sharing and ownership," Hancock writes. "As we develop the older grade levels, we will begin to explore copyright as a legal concept, including the important concept of 'fair use.' " The plan has enraged free-speech advocates, especially after an early draft of the curricula, leaked to Wired, implored first-graders to "get permission" before using others' work because "taking without asking is mean."

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Mitch Stoltz, an attorney for digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, calls the plan "thinly disguised corporate propaganda" for ignoring fair use protections, while Stephen Smith, a lawyer at Greenberg Glusker, tellsTHR it's "more of an attempt to brainwash than truly educate."