“Why do you think downloading software for free is okay?”
“Miss, I don’t have money,” replies a student who attends a private school in Asia.
In any case, I attempt to apply his logic to a different effect, “So, I don’t think I have enough money to buy a car in Indonesia. I think I’ll take your family’s car. That’s okay, right?”
“But I’m taking a copy. Not the real thing,” the student protests.
Sixth grade logic!! I had to concede this point. Yet, I felt compelled to respond to his genuine surprise that pirating would be anywhere in the vicinity of stealing. So I take a different approach, that I already know is not as effective.
“True. But who is the only person you have to live with the rest of your life? Of course, you! You need to decide what kind of person you want to spend all that time with. If someone takes a lot of time and uses tons of creativity to design something that you appreciate, wouldn’t you want to respect them by paying for their ideas if they ask you to chip in some money for their effort?”
Even I think of Wikipedia. Google, Linux and other open source services as reasons for not paying. This is a tough distinction to make for kids. Yet, the key is the line between legal copyright and designers who share their ideas for the joy of collaboration–and possibly a business model I don’t fully comprehend.
In tech class, we were examining the differences between “off the shelf” software, subscription based services and “open source” application and also apps. When I ask the students to close their laptops for further discussion, the student who defended pirating announces, “But I’m downloading right now!” to a collective giggle. I had to grin. Gravity is difficult to generate in discussions surrounding software piracy.
In fact, later, in a conversation with colleagues about illegal downloading in a country where NetFlix is not currently available and dvds of popular movies are suspiciously low priced at local vendors–my homeroom partner gives me a high-five for admitting that I have never knowingly illegally downloaded–not because I’m judg-y, but because I just haven’t taken the effort. I’m conventional. iTunes seems more of a direct route to Breaking Bad. People lend me their dvds of Downtown Abbey. I once followed a band, and genuinely enjoyed supporting them by paying for even the most obscure EPs.
Our other colleague asks him incredulously because she knows him well, “Really? Have you ever used iTunes?”
“Actually, no. But I was impressed by someone who does.”
“So the high-five was for the only nerd you’ve met?” I observe, smiling.
How do you approach the issue of pirates among us and within us? How do you discuss ethics in the classroom? Among colleagues?