Denmark’s new school course wants to brainwash children with the tired old lie that copying is theft

One of the copyright world’s key weapons is a constant barrage of propaganda about the alleged benefits of this intellectual monopoly, and of the supposed horrors of its infringement.  This is typically conducted through massive lobbying of politicians, funded using the copyright companies’ generous profits that could have been distributed to the poorly-paid creators that generate them.  There are also the general awareness campaigns, like the famously laughable “You wouldn’t steal a car” public service announcement and its parodies.  But such is the lack of any sense of proportion or decency in the copyright world, that it believes it also has the right to brainwash children with its dogma.  TorrentFreak has spotted another such effort, this time over in Denmark.  

There is an associated site, with the charming title “Are you a thief?” – an indication that this particular propaganda will be using scare tactics and attempts to frighten children with the prospect of being punished in the courts for downloading unauthorised copyright material.  Here is the central thesis of “Are you a thief” (all translations via DeepL):

Few people realize while consuming illegal content that it’s actually the same as stealing. It’s stealing directly from the people who produce TV, movies, series and sporting events for a living – and every time you do it, you’re breaking copyright law.

This is completely untrue, of course, even if the copyright industry parrots the idea endlessly.  Theft involves taking something from someone; downloading material involves making an additional copy – that is, not taking away, but adding.  Of course, there is then the argument that this is still stealing because the unauthorised version represents a lost sale.  But numerous pieces of research have debunked this simplistic claim.  Indeed, there is evidence that after downloading such unauthorised copies, people go on to buy official versions, thus boosting sales, rather than harming them.  Needless to say, none of these more subtle points are mentioned in the one-sided Danish presentation.  Instead, we get this weirdly moralistic take:

In the real world, we learn to control desire, postpone needs and resist temptation. This lesson also applies in the digital world. Stealing is wrong and punishable by law.

Again, the aim here seems to be frightening and shaming children by tapping into other frameworks of social control – what their parents tell them, what the church says etc. Alongside this tired old trope of “theft”, there’s a curious attempt at revisionism:

On the Internet, there are two kinds of Internet, one legal and one illegal.

We call the legal Internet the light web and the illegal Internet the dark web.

This is trying to conflate unauthorised downloads – something that the “Are you a thief?” site itself admits is common – with the much more obscure and dangerous “dark web” (aka Darknet).  Of course, most children will trust that equation, because they are taught to believe what they are told at school.  But it’s nonsense: downloading unauthorised material is nothing like navigating through the real Darknet.

What’s really depressing about the “Are you a thief?” site is not just its attempts to shame and frighten children into accepting unthinkingly copyright dogma, but the fact that the Danish state has allowed this, and is even supporting it financially.  It is deeply ironic – and sad – that the Danish Ministry of Culture is promulgating the copyright industry’s outdated and selfish views on creativity and sharing, when in fact they are the antithesis of modern, digital culture, as Walled Culture the book (free digital versions available) explains in detail.

Featured image by RettighedsAlliancen.

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