How do you explain fair use to little children?

Matthew Nuzum —  — Leave a comment

My seven year old son doesn’t know it yet but he’s getting an MP3 player for Christmas. This is cool and I’m glad he’s enjoying music. We’re listening to all kinds of music together, from Chopin and “Hiding” (Haydn) to Beastie Boys and Daft Punk to Alicia Keys and Brian Setzer to Rich Mullins and Barlow Girl. (Basically we’re getting a variety)

Now we have a difficult issue to address: fair use. While he has a CD player on his computer that kind of defeats the purpose of having a portable music player. Therefore it makes most sense for him to use his computer to download songs onto his player. We have a variety of CDs in our personal collection (most already ripped and ready) but what about when he wants to go looking for other music? I envision three scenarios:

* A friend brings a CD over for him to listen to
* Checking out music CDs at the library
* Looking for songs on the Internet

I personally disagree with the concepts of DRM and restricting what you can do with music you acquire legally. I kind of ride the line because I also agree with paying artists (and their labels) for producing music and don’t agree with the idea of circumventing that process. (The library issue is an interesting side-issue)

I’ve seen this problem on the horizon – earlier this fall I saw him playing a game I’d never seen before. Apparently a neighbour brought it over to play and he found out after she left the game still worked without the CD.

I’m really torn, do I tell him it’s wrong to listen to music when he doesn’t have the CD in his possession (or personally purchased and downloaded the music, or the music is distributed for free, or …)? The rules are complex and I don’t fully understand them and I’m not sure I agree with them. And how does the library case fit in?

What do you do? If something is wrong and I don’t correct him them I’m basically teaching him it’s not wrong. I definitely disagree with the idea of teaching him something is OK that isn’t.

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Matthew Nuzum

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Web guy, big thinker, loves to talk and write. Front end web, mobile and UX developer for John Deere ISG. My projects: @dsmwebgeeks @tekrs @squaretap ✝