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College Students and Copyright

Copyright law education is harder than it looks, and not only because the material is inherently challenging, even for lawyers. The problem may be that by the time we’re adults, much of our cognitive apparatus is already so crowded with other complex structures that it can be difficult to create a new one, altogether, to deal with this stuff.

In his post, Ed Felten alludes to the boggling task put before elementary school teachers who try to implement the Business Software Alliance’s suggested curriculum. The BSA’s stuff is pretty one-sided, but it’s not as hard as you might think to get fourth graders to follow along, complexity and all. I’ve spent time teaching “inventing” and patenting to fourth graders. They get it. I spent 80 minutes this morning teaching copyright (well, talking about copyright) with a class of bright, motivated Carnegie Mellon University students. All they want to talk about is Grokster. To them, a network is a network is a network. And they may have a point. But skimming even the surface of copyright basics — idea/expression, first sale, control and incentives — drew a lot of blank stares.