The UK Intellectual Property Office have released a new series of cartoons aimed at kids as young as seven years old to help them understand the issues surrounding intellectual property and infringement.
Using the industry area most subject to copying, the campaign follows the story of Ed Shearling, a sheep and superfan of the band, Nancy and the Meerkats, who wants to become a star. With the help of Nancy and the Meerkats’ and their manager, Big Joe, Ed Shearling navigates the world of the music business. The series covers topics such as trade marking a band name, producing memes of famous songs and videoing concerts of music artists to place online. Whilst Ed is setting up his band, Nancy and the Meerkats’ are fighting their own crusade of copying from rival artist, Kitty Perry.
The idea of educating kids through videos and online content has been in existence for some time.
A Guardian article from 2014 reported Conservative MP, Mike Weatherley calling for education on infringement to begin at school where the BBC should be a forerunner to the movement due to their huge access to digital resources. This led to the BBC producing Copyright Aware, an initiative explaining what copyright is and how it can be infringed (https://www.bbc.co.uk/copyrightaware).
Catherine Davies, head of the IPO’s education outreach department believes that much younger people these days are becoming IP consumers and are now accessing content independently and regularly. As a result, the aim of reigniting the UK IPO’s campaign (which was initially set up 5 years ago), helps to bring intellectual property to the forefront as our digital footprint increases and our access to content, particularly digital content, increases at a much faster rate. Ofcom’s ‘Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes’ report published in November 2016 reported that 73% of children aged 5-15 use YouTube, with 37% of pre-schoolers regularly watching content from the social media giant in the UK. Roughly a third have own their own media device and one in three tweens (8-11 year-olds) have their own smartphone. No doubt these figures today are much higher. Therefore, it becomes our responsibility as adults to prevent inadvertent infringement, particularly by younger generations.
Intellectual property is a difficult topic to discuss and one that is not all too easy for children relate to, so the choice of using music and the music industry in this series is well-thought out. As an aunt, I’m also a huge fan of instilling good behaviour in kids from a very young age, so I was definitely pleased to see this existed (and to find a better way to explain to my niece and nephew what their very cool aunt does! ;o) ).
However, I noted a few contradictory points.
In Episode 2, we’re briefly introduced to Justin Beaver, but there’s no explanation as to why Justin was allowed to operate in the music industry (showing some similarity to Justin Bieber), but Ed Shearling, having similarity to Ed Sheeran was not allowed to register ‘Ed Shearling’ from Episode 1. The same goes for Kitty Perry, although, it’s made clear by well-cued doom music that her practises are not well received and she often gets into trouble as she is reported in the tabloids. There’s also the task of explaining to kids exceptions to the rules, such as why ginger-haired Ed Shealing looks like Ed Sheeran with ears – could it possibly be a parody or the fact that it’s a cartoon character and/or the series is released for educational purposes, so no intellectual property rights are intentionally infringed here?
In a news feature covered by the BBC last week, it was reported that Jim Killock, director of Open Rights Group had reservations, also agreeing some material was misleading, such as likening downloading to stealing from a shop.
Perhaps these parts of law are too complicated to explain to kids as young as 7, but good job on the UK IPO for enabling kids to grasp the concept that the behaviour of copying is bad. Thankfully my 12-year old niece and 9-year old nephew picked up on that cue!
Good luck for the series UK IPO! If you there are any young kids in your family, you can catch the series and resources via this link.
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