Thou shalt not steal

Educating about intellectual property rights helps combat Internet thievery.

By GAIL LICHTMAN
March 22, 2007 09:42
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internet image cartoon 8. (photo credit: )

 
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Taking something from a store without paying is stealing. But many have trouble seeing downloading music from the Internet, copying software or plagiarizing as theft. To counter this, the Education Ministry has instituted intellectual property rights education in some 600, or 20 percent, of its secondary schools. Last year, it introduced IPR as part of the industry and management matriculation exam. On March 19, Israel marked the Third Annual National Safe Internet Day. Sponsored by the ministry, police, Microsoft Israel Ltd., Israel Internet Association, the IDF and others, the day was intended to raise awareness of Internet dangers and present ways to deal with them. This year, the main focus was Internet ethics (known as netiquette) and copyright and intellectual property on the Web. The main event was held at the Ohel Shem High School in Ramat Gan. The choice of Ohel Shem could not have been more fitting. For the past two years, this school of 1,500 has had a program that teaches how to use computers and the Internet for educational purposes. Principal Adam Kenigsberger is proud of the school's pioneering efforts. Now, Ohel Shem is one of the Education Ministry's flagship schools integrating a unique program for teaching intellectual property rights into existing study programs. "The Internet raises a lot of dilemmas," noted Shula Bashi, Ohel Shem's coordinator for computer-assisted education. "We are only just beginning to deal with them." The IPR education program is based on two innovative and pioneering teacher's guides - "Educating for Intellectual Property Rights" and "Educating Against Plagiarism." The guides are one of the first attempts worldwide to deal with IPR education in a comprehensive manner. They are part of an overall "Educating for Intellectual Property Rights Program" developed by the Center for Business Ethics of Jerusalem, an independent non-profit based at the Jerusalem College of Technology, in partnership with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Israel Ltd., Microsoft Israel, the Education Ministry, the Justice Ministry's Office of Patents, Trademarks and Designs and the US Embassy's Office of Public Diplomacy. The guides are available in both Hebrew and Arabic, with the general IPR guide also available in English. "No one else has developed a comprehensive IPR teacher's guide," stated Pinhas Rosenstein, director of the Business Ethics Center. "Basically, we took the concepts and put them into language teachers can understand." IN A November report, patent attorneys Luzzato & Luzzato claimed Israel is one of the worst copyright and patent offenders. About 40% of all videos, one third of software and music disks and 10% of pharmaceuticals sold here are forgeries, causing $500 million in economic damage annually. Lack of respect for IPR has earned Israel a place on the US State Department's Priority Watch List 2006 - a list of countries considered to be in IPR violation. Moreover, the availability of information on the Internet has vastly increased plagiarism, making it an epidemic not only among teens but also adults. Last year, ex-Shas MK Yair Peretz was convicted and Beit Shemesh Mayor Daniel Vaknin indicted for plagiarizing papers to fraudulently obtain university degrees. The IPR education program grew out of Rosenstein's participation in a 2002 US State Department international visitors' program on IPR. Rosenstein came to see IPR education as a natural for the Business Ethics Center, then working with the Education Ministry on a business ethics program. "We realized students are more exposed to IP and plagiarism than any other area of business ethics," he said. The guidebooks not only define terminology and provide general background, but to get students thinking also provide relevant case studies and moral dilemmas. "If we did this project with the plagiarism guide only - dayenu [it would have been enough]," Rosenstein said. "Every student writes papers and takes exams. The guide helps them to understand the damage to society when plagiarism is the accepted norm. These kids are our future doctors, engineers and leaders. We want to explain the ramifications of plagiarism and open their eyes to it." "When we introduced computer education, we started ethics and values programs," said Dr. Hannah Vinnik, the ministry's director of science and technology administration. "IPR is part of this. We want to develop appropriate behavior. That is why the guides, which present real-life dilemmas, are so useful." For Ohel Shem, plagiarism is one of the main issues. "It is very easy to copy from the Internet," said Kenigsberger. "We have to educate students that this harmful and, in the long run, reduces motivation to create." "This is where IPR education comes in," stated Bashi. "The students learn not only to use the Internet but also to summarize information, quote and make footnotes. The center's guides are very useful for this." As part of its Internet project, Ohel Shem drew up a covenant on Internet ethics, downloading and the importance of not plagiarizing. It has initiated a project - Shagrireshet (Net ambassador) - a workshop for training students on Internet subjects, including IPR. The students then volunteer to teach the material to their peers. In addition, IPR is taught in the framework of the business administration track. How successful are these programs in raising awareness and changing attitudes? "Some students see the point, some don't," said Eti Swisa, business administration program head. "Sometimes, they gain awareness but don't actually apply it. Nevertheless, we have exposed them to IPR. Before we started talking about it, they didn't understand the concept at all." For a group of Ohel Shem students involved in setting up the school's Web site, what really brought home the message was when others copied applications they developed. "After we built the site, it was really disturbing to have our programs stolen," said 12th grader Doron Zarhi. "This really taught us not to steal from others." "It's galling to see something you created used without being credited," added 11th grader Asaf Goldstein. "We realized that if everyone downloads music, artists will stop creating and we will lose out." Even so, students have not totally ceased downloading. One student admitted: "I used to download music all the time. Now, I just do it less." "IPR has still not really penetrated," noted 12th grader Yaron Segev. "The ease with which people can copy gives it legitimacy." The IPR program's success has spurred Microsoft and Pfizer to explore integrating it into other educational systems around the world. But its greatest impact will be here. "We are a country of innovation. We have to learn to respect others' knowledge," Rosenstein concluded.

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