Activity Seven: Digital Law

Part I: In Class Meeting--Introduction

Digital Law can be defined as electronic responsibility for actions and deeds which is either ethical or unethical. Digital responsibility deals with the ethics of technology. Unethical use manifests itself in form of theft and/or crime. Ethical use manifests itself in the form of abiding by the laws of society.

The legal acquisition and use of music, video, and computer software are primary areas of importance for teens. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and Microsoft have each taken steps to combat copyright infringement, more commonly referred to as piracy. This short quiz, adapted from B4UCopy, will asses your understanding of some basic principles related piracy and digital law:

The repercussions for copyright infringement can be quite severe and students are not immune from the law. This video will help you understand the risks and consequences associated with unlicensed software use and illegal downloading activities, and provide tips for how to protect yourselves:

Class Meeting Discussion Questions:
  1. Although the law says otherwise, many people feel that there's nothing wrong with file sharing. What do you think? Should it be legal to make and share copies of something that you purchased?
  2. Would you feel any differently about file sharing if you were the content creator and people were trading illegal copies of your work?

Part II: At Home--Interaction

While all forms of media are subject to copyright infringement, music piracy is especially problematic for teens. A study last year by the University of Hertfordshire found that the average teenager's iPod contains over 800 illegal music tracks. Under United States law, violators can be sued for up to $150,000 in damages for each copyrighted work, face Federal prosecution, and be fined up to $250,000 and sentenced to jail for up to five years. Teens (and their parents) have been sued for illegal file sharing, and while the fines are typically well below the maximum amount allowed, information, not ignorance of the law, is one's best defense.

The legal and technical jargon surrounding digital law issues can be difficult to understand, but resources like Young People, Music, and the Internet from Childnet International can help students, parents, and teachers become better educated. Read Childnet's music leaflet, then explore the following activities as a family.

Home Activities

Talk With Your Children Understand how your children are using the computer and how they access and share music and what else on the computer might be accessible to others. Discuss copyright and who loses out when songs get distributed for free on the internet. Consider what would happen if you faced legal action – who would pay the bill or lose out if their internet access was disconnected?

Check Your Computer Be aware of what is on your child's computer. Make sure you have proper licenses for any programs not installed by the school and that Sophos (anti-virus) and Counter Spy (anti-spyware) are running in the system tray. Up to date anti-virus software can screen most things downloaded to your computer, including spyware that comes from file sharing services.
  • Worried about file sharing? Free programs such as Digital File Check help to remove or block of any of the unwanted "file-sharing" programs commonly used to distribute copyrighted files illegally.
  • Worried about viruses? Your Tablet is protected by Sophos, but free programs such as AVG can guard your home computer from virus threats.

Part III: In Advisory--Follow-up and Reflection

While file sharing may be tempting, there are scores of online resources for music, video, and software that are legal and affordable. Whatever your interests, you are sure to find something appealing at these sites:
  • In addition to the iTunes store and Amazon MP3, Pro-Music includes links to over 500 retailers of online music.
  • BirdTrax at Illinois State University is a collection of music, movies, TV shows, and other media that can be legally downloaded.
  • offers fast, secure and free downloads from the largest Open Source applications and software directory.

Spend a few minutes exploring and then share at least one resource that you found by completing this short survey:

Digital Law: Legal Media

The results of the survey will be compiled and shared with the class later this month.