Oscar Winner Wants Kids and ISPs Targeted to Prevent Piracy

During a keynote speech, Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire producer David Puttnam announced a number of measures he'd like to see taken against piracy. In addition to educating children at an early age that's it wrong to download copyrighted material, he wants movie camcording outlawed and ISPs held responsible for the activities of their users.

The Film Distributors’ Association (FDA) is the trade body for UK theatrical film distributors. As a member of the UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), FDA is also engaged on-going initiatives to combat film piracy.

FDA president and Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire producer (Lord) David Puttnam recently gave a keynote speech where he called for new measures to be taken against Internet piracy.

One option is the increasingly common targeting of children, with Puttnam suggesting that the concept of intellectual property needs to be “embedded inextricably into the school curriculum.” Children need to be taught that if they want movies in new ways and formats they have to pay for them, he added.

Puttnam said that the FDA-sponsored project to get this information into schools is well underway, with one in five primary schools (that’s 5 to 11 year-olds) having been serviced by the charity set up to distribute pro-movie and pro-copyright information.

While it may be beneficial to educate young people about what copyright is, there are a problem areas. First and foremost is where this information is coming from, i.e interested parties. Since the focus of this information will be aimed at ‘protecting’ its members, in order to maintain a balance, who will tell the children about the drawbacks of restrictive copyright?

Second, we all know that children are like sponges, soaking up information at an amazing rate with an amazing capacity for learning, but should copyright really be taught to the detriment of other subjects in an already intensely crowded curriculum?

Will a 7 year-old really be able to grasp the huge complexities of even basic copyright law? Will he or she be expected to know the difference between, let’s say, the BBC-provided iPlayer service and the dozens of unauthorized sites providing movies and TV shows at the click of a button? Even adults have difficulty telling the difference.

But in the main, will kids care? If an interview we conducted in 2007 is anything to go by, probably not.

Even now, more than 2 years later, although the kid we interviewed is much more aware of what is ‘right and ‘wrong’, she still has no problem with clicking a link and getting media for free. She told me recently that she doesn’t care about how it got there, only that it is. She strongly sees the back issues as not her problem. It’s difficult to blame her – how would we react if some guy in a suit tried to burden us with this stuff at 12 years old?

Along with the educational element to his organization’s work against piracy, Puttnam says he believes that the Digital Economy Bill lacks teeth and more pressure needs to be brought against ISPs.

“One of the mistakes made is allowing the ISPs to pretend they are not part of a retail chain,” said Puttnam. “If you or I wanted to open a chemist shop we would have to pay attention to health and safety and the nature of the products that we sold. We couldn’t just serve anyone, for instance.”

Of course, ISPs are responsible for the product they sell, but they sell bandwidth over which other companies sell products or provide services for which they are responsible.

Continuing the emotive ‘chemist’ analogy, although legally there is a requirement for them to sell safe products, they cannot be held responsible, say, if some pharmaceutical giant makes a huge error and packs poison inside a paracetamol package. Is the pharmacist really expected to open every packet of every medicine he sells checking for something dangerous inside? So why should ISPs be expected to do the same?

In his speech, Puttnam also called for a change in legislation to outlaw the use of camcorders in UK cinemas, something which is currently entirely legal. Despite this legal status, it didn’t stop the FDA from convincing UK charity CrimeStoppers last year to partner in a campaign to encourage the public to be vigilant and help prevent camcording.

Although Puttnam’s speech had its faults, he is absolutely, unequivocally right about one thing. Film content must be made available legally online “in ways consumers want, and at prices they can afford” in order to discourage the use of illicit file-sharing.

This should be the number one priority of the movie and music industries.

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