Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My 8-year old Outlaw

I'd like to let you in on a conversation that happened at my house the other day...

Me: What are you doing on the computer?
Daughter : Reading.
Me: What?
Daughter: Harry Potter, The Half Blood Prince
Me: Oh you are reading about the book?
Daughter: No the actual book. It was out at the library.
Me: So.....
Daughter: So I googled "Read Harry Potter online" and found the book on this website.
Me: Ummm, I don't think you can do that.
Daughter: Why not?
Me: Well the person who scanned that book and put it online didn't have permission.
Daughter: But it's her book right? She bought it. Can't she do whatever she wants with it?
Me: HHMMM no it doesn't work that way -- she bought the book but that only means she can read it.
Daughter: But the library bought the book and they let a lot of people read it.
Me: That's different.
Daughter: How?
Me: Well in the library only one person can read that book at a time and online many people can read the book at the same time.
Daughter: So then there wouldn't need to be as many books if a lot of people could read the same book all at the same time.
Me: Exactly. The author of the book wouldn't be able to sell as many books if everyone put it up online.
Daughter: OOOH, so she wants to make lots of money.
Me: Well no, that's not entirely the point. Errrr -- can't you just wait until it is back in the library?
Daughter: I guess, but I still don't know why I can't read that girls book online.
Me: (muttering) Where is the email of that guy who talks about copyright stuff again.. maybe he can do a better job than me.

Harry Potter was taken off of that website today due to suspected copyright infringement but the fact remains that for a short period of time my 8-year old was an outlaw. It's a sticky subject, and an important one but I'm not sure I'm up to the task of translating into a form that an 8-year old can fathom. Her logic has me a bit stumped. It really is a whole new world out there...


Alec Couros said...

Great post Penny. I think you did really well to explain this to your daughter. The other piece that is important is that libraries often pay more for the right to lend books to many readers especially if the books are made available online where more than one person can access the volume at a specific time. This has always been a unique issue because really, multiple copies are often beneficial to both libraries and users of libraries because a limitless number of copies are available, and as well, one can access these from anywhere. And there are also advantages to the publishers as there is no additional publishing cost for each copy available.

As for finding these books illegitimately online, there are now so many sources. I have noticed that a lot of these books are scanned and made available on sites like Scribd, and certainly through P2P and bittorrent networks. Once a copy is taken down, another one pops up. One of the problems of finding this or other media like this is that they are often hosted on sites that make money via traffic, and often host a ton of pornography or other inappropriate links. I've noticed that kids that have had a lot of experience with these sites largely ignore all of these ads and go directly for the content. This has always felt strange to me, as I am not sure if it represents an attitude of complacency, focus, or desensitization. Hmmmmm.

Thanks for this great post!

Dave Truss said...

I actually commend your daughter's ingenuity and have a hard time seeing her as an outlaw. And yet I also applaud you for having the conversation.

Laws create outlaws.

What about a kid in a poor community with no access to the book in the library? Is this web-accessed kid a criminal for wanting to read and finding a means to do so?

Are you telling me as a teacher you have never photocopied/cut-and-pasted/google-searched something copyright-ed and used it?

Maybe it is just me, but there seems to be a weird double standard that we use?

Tech Mom said...

Thanks for the comments..
@Alec I honestly would have never thought of looking for a book online in that way -- Once again I can't keep up with her expectations of the internet -- and she's only eight!!
As for the ads -- I think it's a matter of habituation -- a loud noise startles the first time but after repeated regular exposure we stop being startled-- we are built that way so that we can adapt to our environment and be attuned to what is new and requires our attention. It was a very important trait in our hunter-gatherer days and it still serves us well today.

Tech Mom said...

@Dave Truss I am beginning to wonder if this "outlaw" generation will be the one's that force the laws to be changed. Their expectations that everyone should be able to read "harry potter" if they want to, may be what opens things up for the disadvantaged kids that you refer to.

I agree with you that there seems to be a double-standard afoot as many people do not understand how to properly access and cite the resources that they find on the internet. Having a M. Lib. Sci. in the extended family probably makes me a little more aware than most. She keeps me on my toes.

Thanks for the compliment of thinking I am in education. My background however is Pharmacy (and being a parent). Would hate for anyone to think I actually had **credentials** to back up my ramblings!!
Thanks for your thoughts.