This post could as easily be labeled “living with integrity” because of the universal nature of this problem, but the place I see it the most is in the homeschooling community because I am active in homeschooling forums and the local community; it is what I have experienced. I also know as a creator of digital goods, and having dabbled my feet in the music industry when I was a student, that intellectual property is of value, and when you copy and otherwise distribute intellectual property, you hurt the company’s bottom line. You destroy a company’s incentive for creating quality products in the first place. I really hope I’m preaching to the choir. My purpose is not to belittle or make anyone feel bad, but to invite you to reflect on how you use educational (or other) materials, whether you have purchased them or not.
Two articles that were recently shared with me say it better than I can.
Thank You to all my Loyal Readers!
When Frugal is Illegal: Here’s how to avoid the copyright trap
When you download a product you haven’t paid for, that’s stealing.
Obviously if someone uploads a program they don’t have the rights to, that’s stealing. Not only is it not ethical and dishonest, it’s illegal and can land them in jail. They are a pirate. But consider the lesser crime- watching a video that has been illegally uploaded. Doing this supports pirates. Whether they are getting more views, or even earning advertising revenue, which I have increasingly seen on YouTube, they are profiting from intellectual property that is not theirs. If you watch these YouTube videos, you are encouraging this practice, as well as enjoying fruits that you did not pay for. What if, instead of watching these videos, viewers reported them to the rightful owners. Online piracy could be drastically reduced! Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
In a digital world where sharing files has become easier than ever before, some families pitch in and purchase curriculum as a group. If said curriculum was sold for individual family use, this group is pirating.
It is not legal to photocopy consumable books. This especially means workbooks, but includes any other item labeled “consumable”. It is also not legal to reproduce these workbooks by placing them in plastic sheets or laminating them for marker use, or to write your workbook answers in a notebook. These later items border into the grey area of what is ethical and what is not, but such is the law.
It is not legal to share digital files you paid for (or received free as a special promotion) with others unless you have permission from the owner.
It is illegal to make copies of your digital files to lend to others, unless specified. It is legal to make a copy for your own personal backup.
Sharing software with other families is illegal. Some software allows the purchaser to download two copies for personal family use. This means you can put it on your home computer and a laptop, or on your computer and a grandparent’s computer for use only when you visit. You have purchased it for your family to use and the company offers the option of two downloads for your convenience. If someone sees this option and purchases the software with another family for split ownership, unless the license agreement specifies that they can, they are abusing the company’s trust. They are also breaking the law.
It is illegal to copy materials from the public library. I have heard people justify this practice because public funds have paid for them to have access to said material. This is faulty thinking. Public funds have paid for these materials to be made available to patrons one at a time, for shared use. Copying library books or media is illegal. If you do this, you are a pirate.
Hey, mateys, if I’ve pricked your conscience, I have some advice. There are a lot of pirates out there, but if you’ve joined the crew, you don’t have to turn yourself in to cease pirating. Here are my top 10 things you can do to stop pirating.
Sigh. I know that homeschoolers often do not have a large budget to work with. I resonate with not wanting to go without. I understand wanting to be frugal, to pinch pennies, and stretch our dollar to give our children more. I also have worked very hard to procure money to spend on my children and recognize that not everyone has that opportunity. I know I’m lucky. Even so, I’m not rich, and I have researched enough to know that there are cheaper alternatives to the glitzy programs being advertised. There are free curriculum sites. There are plenty of the best curriculums of yesterday available from google books and others. There are genuine programs and how to videos on YouTube. There is often even a local library stocked with exactly what you need. We live in an information age, where the materials and resources genuinely needed for a solid education are freely available to anyone in the world who has internet access. With a little work, the needs for any subject are freely available to anyone, rich or poor. We are not talking about stealing a loaf of bread for a family’s survival. Intellectual property is not a need, it is a want.
I also understand the motivation homeschoolers use when they pirate intellectual property. They do it because they want to give their children a better education. To teach their children some academic principle. May I suggest that the best principle you can teach your children is to be moral? To have integrity? If you set a good example to your children, both in what you choose to give them, but also in what you choose not to give them, they will appreciate your efforts and are more likely to learn to be honest themselves. Certainly this life lesson will be harder to teach if your example of correct principles cannot be seen.
My challenge today is to homeschool with integrity.