Outreach: Talking to the Download Generation

Author:Elizabeth March
Position:WIPO Magazine Editorial Staff, Communications and Public Outreach Division

Rights and wrongs. Tuning out. Irresistible.


Hussein was among a group of 16 - 17 year olds whose views on piracy provided delegates to the 2007 Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy with food for thought. A WIPO team had taken cameras into the classroom of an international school, shown the students a range of anti-piracy publicity materials, and filmed their reactions. With the subject of awareness-raising high on the Global Congress agenda, the film was intended to illustrate the importance of understanding the attitudes of a target audience when designing outreach campaigns.

Rights and wrongs

A show of hands in the classroom revealed that downloading music illegally was a daily practice among this typical group of bright teenagers. Why, we asked them, did these normally law-abiding citizens have no qualms about breaking the law in this particular area? It was clearly not through lack of awareness of copyright law. The students were well informed. Yet they did not feel that they were doing anything wrong. "Downloading seems kind of unreal compared to other crimes," reflected Elena. "Sure, we know it's illegal," added Harry, "but it's not like you're going to get a knock on the door and find a policeman standing there." They might feel differently, the students agreed, had anyone they knew ever been fined or punished for illegal downloading. But as it was, they saw it as a non-crime with no consequences.

But what about the ethical rights and wrongs? Hussein was quick to voice a sense of popular outrage: "Yeah, well how is it moral to charge 25 dollars for a CD that costs 25 cents to produce?" This unleashed a flood of invective against perceived corporate greed, of which the teenagers viewed themselves - and many artists - as innocent victims. "For them to say they're losing millions because of downloading is hypocritical," fumed Ayushi. "The record labels are just minting money."

An explanation from the WIPO team as to how record companies use sales profits to subsidize new talent and unprofitable bands, made little impact. One earnest lad in the front row urged his classmates see "the economic point of view. - It's a business, after all, and businesses have got to make money." But others shot back: "then they should work harder on making us want to pay for it." Ricardo argued that the time had come for new business models: "They've got to find ways to make money other than selling CDs, because stopping...

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