The popularity of music and software file-sharing networks has made the concept of intellectual property rights relevant to students of all ages. In an attempt to educate kids about the legal aspects of such swapping, the Business Software Alliance has created the Play It Cyber Safe curriculum, available for free download at http://www.playitcybersafe.com.
The following worksheet helps students in grades 3-5 understand when software sharing constitutes theft. Other lessons address middle-school students. These lessons likely would make a good part of a balanced unit that also includes discussions of shareware, the open-source software movement and other aspects of the debate over intellectual property rights.
Is It Theft?
You use software every time you turn on your computer. Software is what drives the programs that you use for word processing, Internet research, e-mail, games, etc. Without software, your computer wouldn't work. Make a list of all the ways you use software every day.
When you buy and install software on your computer, it's not yours to do with as you like. Generally speaking, you've paid the software creator for the right to use the program on your own computer. You don't have the right to make copies for your friends. These rules are set out in the licensing agreement that accompanies all legitimate software.
When you violate the licensing agreement by illegally copying and distributing or downloading software, it's theft. You're stealing someone else's property.
After reading each story, choose the correct answer:
1. Sarah and her friend Jenny want to go biking, but Jenny didn't bring her bicycle. If Sarah takes, without permission, her next-door neighbor's bike for Jenny to ride, she is:
a. Being a good friend since she and Jenny just want to go biking.
b. Just borrowing the bike even though her neighbor didn't give permission.
c. Doing Jenny a favor.
d. Stealing, because …