Is K-12 the Appropriate Place to Teach Children about Copyright Infringement? Huffington Post Live Interview


I remember back in the 1980’s (ok I’m dating myself) when my friends and I used to make mix-tapes and music compilations and shared them amongst ourselves. It was a multi-hour process and we poured our creativity and thoughts into making the perfect tape. There was no thought in our minds about whether what we were doing was “legal” or not. We just did it. It was a right of passage. Now there are discussion about inserting anti-piracy and copyright infringement “training” into our already packed curriculum at schools in California, and it’s making me scratch my head a bit. I was just on a Huffington Post Live segment that discussed this exact topic.


The Huffington Post segment is titled “Interest Groups Infiltrate Schools” and is available on the Huffington Post Live site. The segment was hosted by Alyona Minkovski, who is one of the founding hosts of Huffington Post Live and a Forbes Top 30 Under 30 media personalities (follow her @AlyonaMink).

The other guests on the segment were:

  • Marsali Hancock @marsalih (Salt Lake City , UT) President and CEO of Internet Keep Safe Coalition
  • Mitch Stoltz @mitchstoltz (San Francisco, CA) Staff Attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Tracy Mitrano (Ithaca, NY) Director of IT Policy, Cornell University
  • Me –> Michael Sheehan @hightechdad (San Francisco, CA) Tech Blogger; Father of 3

The topic for discussion was how companies like AT&T and Verizon have now partnered with the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) to create curriculum for elementary schools that attempt to teach children about the “evils of copyright infringement.”

The 20 minute segment is below and I encourage you to watch all sides of the argument prior to forming any opinions:

Honestly, I feel that there is a better place and time for this type of “education.” It is not in the schools during precious “real education” time. If our schools are going to carve our time in the day to supposedly instruct children about copyright infringement, I believe the time would be better spent instead training kids about online and social bullying, a topic that is seldom discussed in schools and more of a “clear and present” danger to children than copyright infringement.

If, at an early age, children are instructed that using copyrighted materials in the creative projects that they are working on can get them in trouble, guess what will happen. Children won’t want to be creative any more for fear of getting in trouble. At that age, children should be free to experiment. While I don’t endorse the use of copyrighted materials without attribution, I do feel that elementary school is NOT the place for these types of discussions.

There are other channels where children can be educated about copyright infringement and schools are not these channels. We see and hear Public Service Announcements (PSAs) on streaming services or before DVD movies as well as in movie theaters. By toning and customizing the content to younger audiences, the message would be better understand and potentially learned.

Also, once corporations see that they can make inroads into influencing the school curriculums, where will it stop?

I do think that perhaps at a higher level of education, there should be discussion about fair use, copyrights, and creativity, especially since children would hopefully be able to be better critical thinkers about this topic. At a young age, however, like elementary school, it just sounds like one more “do not do” rule that is added to their list.

Let’s prepare our children differently – give them the tools to understand online collaboration and creativity, train them to know how to combat online and offline bullies, and empower them to be thoughtful and kind to their peers.


I would love to get some feedback on the Huffington Post Live segment as well as this topic.

  • What are your views?
  • Do you think copyright infringement is a big enough issue to have it talked about in school? And if so, at what level?
  • Should corporations have the ability to influence public and private school curriculum?
  • If time is slotted for other types of education like this, what do you think would be the best use of time?

Let me know!

HTD says: As parents, we should have a say as to what we deem appropriate for education. Is copyright infringement training one of them?

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Michael Sheehan (“HighTechDad”) is an avid technologist, writer, journalist, content marketer, blogger, tech influencer, social media pundit, loving husband and father of 3 beautiful girls living in the San Francisco Bay Area. This site covers technology, consumer electronics, Parent Tech, SmartHomes, cloud computing, gadgets, software, hardware, parenting “hacks,” and other tips & tricks.

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