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Date: Sat, 20 Sep 2003 22:38:17 -0400
From: Ruben I Safir
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Subject: [hangout] The shaping of young minds:
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September 18, 2003 Is It Wrong to Share Your Music? (Discuss) By KATIE
WALNUT CREEK, Calif.
IT shouldn't be illegal," said 14-year-old Sonya Arndt. "It's not like
I'm selling it."
"Isn't it like recording movies?" asked Korbi Blanchard, 13. "They're
making a big thing out of nothing."
"It's wrong to be downloading hundreds of songs, but if you only want
one or two, it's not that big a deal," said 13-year-old Kristina Lee.
When the record industry's campaign against digital file-sharing yielded
lawsuits on Sept. 8 against 261 people - at least one as young as 12 -
it struck home with students at Foothill Middle School as news events
Almost all of the 1,100 students at the school, in this suburb 25 miles
east of San Francisco, have Internet-connected computers at home. And
their musical tastes, like those of teenagers before them, are strongly
held - Linkin Park, 50 Cent, Good Charlotte - as are their views of
right, wrong and fairness.
So Valerie Kriger, a Foothill teacher, chose music downloading as her
Friday current events topic.
Later that day, two of Ms. Kriger's classes - her yearbook class, with
seventh and eighth graders, and her social studies and English students,
all eighth graders - spent their class time sharing their thoughts on
the subject with a reporter. In all, nearly 50 students wanted to weigh
in with their opinions.
And those opinions came out in a flood. Virtually everyone wanted to
express some indignation at the recording industry, mixed with no small
amount of confusion over the legal issues.
Theirs is a downloading culture. A few clicks of a mouse bring them not
just music, but movies, games, and instant communication as well.
Legality seems beside the point as they click their way through
licensing agreements, impatient for the software at the other end.
Although happy to give their views, Ms. Kriger's students were decidedly
more guarded when asked about their own downloading practices.
Reluctantly, more than half said they had downloaded music. Several said
they did not want their parents to know. And only half of those who
downloaded music said they knew that they were violating copyrights.
Sonya Arndt, an energetic eighth grader known in class for speaking out,
had the most to say. The record industry is simply greedy, she said. The
industry should not be going after a bunch of kids. And how were her
friends supposed to afford the high cost of CD's?
Individual musicians are not necessarily suffering, either, she said.
"They're not losing money, because we still buy the T-shirts and go to
their concerts," Sonya said. "They're still famous."
Her friend Korbi Blanchard, a 13-year-old whom Ms. Kriger identified as
one of her brightest students, chimed in. "If you're not selling it, why
is it wrong?" Korbi asked. "If it's something for personal use, as long
as you're not redistributing it, it should be O.K."
At the same time, many of the students are thinking harder about their
downloading habits now that they know they could be singled out for what
"It makes me nervous," said Korbi, whose Internet use usually involves
shopping and communicating with a small circle of friends. "They're
Sonya, Korbi and others in the class complained about the mixed signals
they get from those who are supposedly responsible for informing them
what is right and wrong.
That includes the PC makers ("Why do they sell PC's with CD burners if
it's illegal?" Sonya asked) and the purveyors of such programs as KaZaA,
which allow the downloading to take place. ("Why isn't there a warning
that says that what we're doing is illegal?" Kristina Lee asked.)
Sonya's tone veered toward anger when the subject turned to drugs. She
told of a friend at the school who was using ecstasy and other drugs,
her life a mess. Music downloading, Sonya said, was innocuous by
comparison. "Five hours in front of a computer is five hours away from
drugs," she said.
The subject moved to the class's understanding of right and wrong, which
turned mostly on questions of degree. That is, if they download a little
bit of music, not a lot, then it's less wrong. Or so the logic went.
Paring down volume was the strategy for Scott Perham, 13. After the news
about the lawsuits, "I deleted a lot of my songs," he said. "We read the
article and my mom was concerned."
Scott reduced his song collection to 700, from 900. The disclosure of
such a large stash elicited a few gasps of disbelief from his
Marissa Bertucci, a seventh grader, said she thought that downloading
was "sort of wrong" and that she tried to download music only if she
really liked it.
Marissa's comment led others to volunteer that if they downloaded a song
and liked it, they would often then buy the CD.
Ms. Kriger said that in speaking to the students earlier about
downloading, she had been careful not to try to impart lessons of right
and wrong, a job she cedes to parents.
Still, she said, she was struck by the students' belief that if they
downloaded just a little, it was less wrong, perhaps not wrong at all.
"What I told them was, 'This is still the law, and if you break the
rules, there are consequences. If I choose to go speeding down the
freeway at 80 miles an hour, I have to suffer the consequences,' " she
said. "My point was, 'Now we've read this article, now you know it's not
It was a distinction that they grasped but did not necessarily believe
they should comply with, at least in this case.
Partly, said some, they were drawn by the thrill of doing something
Casey Hultin, 13, was a notable exception. She sat patiently with her
hand raised, and when her turn to speak came, she bravely ventured to
disagree with her classmates.
"They're right to be suing all the little people," she said.
Casey said that she had a computer in her room, and that while "usually
I hide what I'm doing" on it, her parents kept an eye on things
nonetheless. "They're always sending me articles about the downloaders,"
she said. (And she had recently been "Internet grounded" for two days
because she was caught instant messaging after 9 p.m.)
Casey said she used to download music but stopped after her parents had
a talk with her. "They told me to really think about it, and I stopped,"
Several parents contacted after the class were, like their children,
eager to talk.
Unlike the stereotypical adult who is clueless about what the children
might be up to on the Internet, many of the parents of Ms. Kriger's
students seemed highly aware.
Sonya's mother, Jill Arndt, said she could understand the children's
confusion. "When we bought our computer, all the downloading was part of
the sales pitch," she said. "Not for a minute did they say, 'Be careful
because some of this stuff is illegal.' ''
Ms. Arndt said she would prefer not to say whether her daughter had ever
Korbi's mother, Kristi Blanchard, said she and her husband set limits on
Korbi's Internet activity and that of his 15-year-old brother, Tym,
mostly by forbidding instant messaging on school nights. When the
children are instant messaging, they are also not allowed to flip their
screens to something else when their parents enter the room.
The Blanchard family has discussed the issue of music downloading in
view of the recent crackdowns. Although Ms. Blanchard's husband, Sym,
told his children he was opposed to the illicit file-sharing, explaining
that musicians derived part of their income from selling their music.
Korbi and her brother wondered in return why the music was made so
readily accessible if downloading it was illegal.
"People don't know what they're getting into when they buy a computer,"
said Korbi in a conversation after Ms. Kriger's class. "I think Dell
should send out a contract for parents to sign, saying you agree not to
use it for illegal purposes. I don't know how else they're supposed to
get people to stop."
Ms. Blanchard said she saw little wrong with her children's burning a
couple of CD's a month and that she openly disagreed with her husband.
"He sort of walked off," she recalled. "I said, 'Gee, could you make me
a CD I could use at the gym?' ''
Max Alonso, 13, was eager to talk about the excitement he felt when
skirting the edges of the law by riding his skateboard where it was
explicitly forbidden to do so. At shopping centers, Max and his friends
skate where they should not, and race in the other direction when they
spot a police officer. He has been issued a few warnings, which shook
him up a bit but did not stop him, Max said.
Downloading music does not interest him.
And that is a relief for his mother, Susan Alonso. Ms. Alonso recounted
a difficult experience with her daughter, now 19, whose activity on the
Internet a few years ago - which included a lot of lewdness and bullying
back and forth - brought nothing but trouble.
Ms. Alonso is pleased that Max's preoccupations begin and end with four
little wheels under his feet.
She is far stricter about what Max can do on the Internet. When all the
"hullabaloo" with Napster started a couple of years ago, Ms. Alonso
said, Max came to her for advice. "He asked, 'Do you think I should do
this?' and then he just kind of stayed away from it.'' --
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