US schoolchildren, already enrolled into classes on the evils of copyright violation next term, are to be invited to name the Business Software Alliance's new mascot.
The BSA explains: "Elementary school students heading back to school in September will be invited to name the 'Play It Safe in Cyber Space' mascot, a 'copyright-crusading' ferret who teaches tech-savvy kids about cyber ethics." To limit the scope for mischief, pre-teens will be limited to voting for one of five ferret pre-approved names (doubtless Weasel, Judas or Piggy will not be on the approved list). The poll will last a month.
The BSA's 'copyright-crusading' ferret will appear in a four-page comic book out in January with a storyline designed to "educate children about the importance of protecting and respecting copyrighted works such as software, music, games and movies". The comic book and companion teacher’s guide will be mailed across the US to fourth grade teachers who subscribe to Weekly Reader and will be available for free download at the Play It Cyber Safe website. The BSA wants teachers to incorporate this material in their lesson plans.
According to the BSA, its cyber ethics curriculum has reached more than 13m kids, parents and teachers since its initial distribution in 2002. Like the Jesuits, the BSA believes in moulding new minds when they are young. Results of a Harris Interactive poll, commissioned by BSA, show that young people aged between eight and 18 "understand the meaning of copyright, yet still illegally download and copy software and other digital materials".
Schoolchildren across the world have enjoyed the adventures of Ratty and Mole in The Wind in the Willows for decades. Perhaps the BSA's ferret is the beginning of a whole new literary eco-system. We look forward to meeting a bulldog that fights against consumer rip-offs in the music biz and an eagle that campaigns for a fair deal for artists, though we fear neither will appear in a comic book approved by the BSA. ®