Industry Targets Baby Pirates

U.K. record industry chiefs are reportedly under fire over a scheme to teach 5-year-olds not to illegally download music online.

Lessons about copyright law are already being piloted in six schools and could be rolled out across the country, according to the Daily Mail.

Critics suggest the initiative is designed to protect commercial interests rather than provide a valuable educational experience.

The anti-piracy scheme is run by music industry consultant Ruth Katz, who also works for record giant EMI. She says she’s funding the school scheme independently, but the paper reckons it’s getting money from the EMI Music Sound Foundation, a charity set up by the label to improve music education.

Detractors question whether schoolchildren would even know how to download music without assistance.

“This is not a major topic we should be introducing for children at such a young age. Primary schools have got overcrowded curricula as it is,” said Don Foster, Liberal Democrat shadow secretary for culture, media and sport.

“I have initiated an education programme for primary schoolchildren to teach them about copyright and anti-piracy,” Katz, who has worked extensively for EMI on measures to prevent illegal downloads, wrote on a Web site profile.

“The project has tremendous support from music industry associations, notably the IFPI and UK Music, the EMI Music Sound Foundation and the Department for Children, Schools and Families along with other music-related industries,” she said, although all mention of the supporting groups was removed after Katz was contacted by the Mail On Sunday.

Apparently it was changed to, “I have initiated an education programme for primary schoolchildren to teach them about the broader aspects of creativity and making music.”

Katz said she hopes to extend the project across the country with government support by September 2010.

A study by the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property estimated that music and film piracy costs the economy £12 billion a year.