A School IP Project


The music industry seems fairly aggressive in taking legal action against children when they break the licence terms of copyright material. I think it would be good to teach children about how the IP industry really works.

It seems to me that you could have a school project that involves an entire year level (maybe 100 students depending on the size of the school) each of whom can produce copyright material (everything they do in art and English classes would be suitable as a start). Then they could register their work (make digital photographs and then store them in a school database that records the entry date) and sue anyone who infringes their work.

Every student would receive licence fees for their work, but if they are sued for infringement they would have to pay all revenue plus damages. Other students could work as lawyers and take a portion of the proceeds of any successful law suit, and finally some students could run recording companies and spend their time hunting for infringing work for the purpose of launching legal action.

In terms of the licence fees paid, this could be done by just allocating a fixed value per item to each student as a way to get the system running without regard to the fact that some students just aren’t able to create good art. It could however have a large portion of the value coming from what other students choose to spend, every student gets to “spend” $10 per week on art and they can choose from the database what they want to “buy” copies of. The most popular art could then be printed on every notice-board in the school as an incentive for students to vote with their play-money for something that they don’t mind seeing all the time. It’s obvious that popularity would be a significant factor in the success of some artists, but that’s OK, a casual review of the chart topping music reveals that it’s quite obviously not created by the world’s best musicians so it seems that rewarding popularity rather than skill just adds some realism.

One possibility would be to allow the students to elect representatives to create their own IP laws. It would be interesting to see how the IP laws voted on by representatives of the students (who are all in some way involved with the process of creating, buying, selling, and distributing artistic products) differ from those which we have foisted upon us in the real-world. Also an interesting possibility would be to allow corruption in the election process and observe how the results differ from year levels where corruption is not permitted. I expect that teaching children how political corruption works would be a little controversial, but it’s nothing that they can’t learn from reading news reports about what the “entertainment” industry is really doing. Really being a corrupt politician for a school project shouldn’t be as bad as playing a murderer in a school play!

Naturally this couldn’t be done with real money, but giving higher marks at the end of the year to the students who accumulate the most play money would be quite reasonable. I don’t think that there would be a problem with giving higher marks to a student who succeeded through political corruption – as long as they gave a good written report of how they did so and the implications for society.

Please note that I am not suggesting this for a subject that is used for university entrance, I think it would be a good project for years 8-10 which in Australia have no relevance to university entrance. So the marks would just be letters on a bit of paper that might make parents happy or unhappy and otherwise mean nothing.

I anticipate responses from people who believe that educating children about how the world works is not appropriate for a school. Such people are never going to convince me, but if anyone thinks that they can make a good point to convince some of the readers then I encourage them to write it up in the comments section if it’s short or on their own blog if it’s longer.


4 thoughts on “A School IP Project”

  1. anonymous says:

    Wow. Finally instead of that “think of the children” craze, someone asked “but how would the children think?”.

  2. etbe says:

    Yes, and I even assume that children CAN think and will often do so in the same ways as adults (EG political corruption). I accept the possibility that in some cases they may think in better ways.

  3. anonymous says:

    > I think it would be good to teach children about how the IP industry really works.

    I think it would be good to teach children that stuff called “Intelectual Property” is different than physical property, and that there are some differences in rules that apply to both properties, such as:
    – zero cost of producing copies of “intelectual
    – artificial scarcity.

    Otherwise a smart project, showing kids “how stuff works” in a real world.

  4. etbe says:

    anon#2: I agree, how would you do it?

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