Why is National Institute on Media & Family Jumping into the File Sharing Debate?

In an unusual move, the National Institute on Media & the Family issued a newsletter alert last Thursday under the heading, "Does your teen understand illegal downloading?"

We found this both surprising and unsettling, for a couple of reasons.

First, the file sharing debate is a hot button issue between media content owners and consumers, and it’s not one that’s going away any time soon. Nor is it a simple issue. And while reasonable points can be made by both sides, the tactics of the content owners and their apparatchiks have been little short of draconian at times.

But even beyond the various arguments to be made, our question is simply this: Why is an organization founded and operated by a child psychologist (Dr. David Walsh), an organization which has historically attempted to relate modern digital media to developmental and emotional health issues, getting involved in a fight which is fraught with elements of politics and class struggle?

We note that the non-profit NIMF recently agreed to partner with Microsoft on PACT, a video game usage contract between parents and kids which also enjoys the backing of the National PTA. It is unknown whether NIMF’s relationship with Microsoft is related to the non-profit’s position on downloading. Figures compiled by Microsoft, however, are cited in last week’s newsletter:

Parents have understood for millennia that they must teach their kids values like honesty and that you cannot just walk into a store and take stuff. Modern parenting includes preparing kids for honesty in the digital age.


Microsoft released results from an online survey showing that teens are less likely to illegally download or share content from the Internet when they understand the laws protecting intellectual property. However (and here’s the heads-up for parents and teachers), 49% of those surveyed said they did not understand the rules for downloading music, movies, images, literature, and software. Only 11% of teens surveyed said they “understood the rules very well.”

Attempts to reach NIMF for comment were unsuccessful. However, we will update if we hear from the organization.

GP: Let’s be clear: we don’t support copyright violation or illegal downloading. Nor, on the other hand, can we get behind many of the heavy-handed tactics employed by content providers. The bottom line? NIMF should stick to what it does best and let the wealthy media corporations fight their own battles.

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  1. 0
    Cal says:

    Images? Presumably that means MIME format files and so forth and not, say, disk images? Oh dear, I used a copyrighted title shot downloaded from the internet as a still image for Apple DVD Player to display whenever I insert Spirited Away into the drive… I’m fucked!

  2. 0
    Twin-Skies ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Sam situation where I come from. Third world country salaries combined with local retailer selling CDs at 1st-world prices does not make for good math.

    They wanna stop piracy here? Slash the fucking prices.

  3. 0
    Aliasalpha says:

    I know that price is a poor excuse for piracy but Australians are getting royally shafted when it comes to CDs. How much is the average CD in american dollars, $15 isn’t it? Our exchange rate with america is presently in the 95c region so on a strictly exchange rate level, we should be paying roughly $16. Add an extremely generous $2 for shipping despite the fact that it’d cost nothing like that much. So call it $18-20 at an absolute maximum but we pay… *drumroll* $30! When you consider that the atrist gets maybe $0.50 out of that sale and assuming that MP3’s compressed waveform isn’t objectionable to your ears, the one and only impetus to buying physical media is to support local businesses.

  4. 0
    Verbinator ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This sounds like a perfect subject matter for a group interested in helping parents teach their children to make good choices. Pet peeves aside, copying music, video media, visual media, or games that have not been deliberately made freely available (and by that I mean intentionally made to be free of charge) on the Internet (or other sources) is no different than the act of walking into a store, sticking a retail version of the same media in your pocket, and walking out the front door of the store without paying.

  5. 0
    Timmay! says:

    I downloaded a couple albums off of iTunes, eventually stripped the DRM, then learned my lesson when the files themselves got corrupted, because I didn’t have a hard copy anywhere to reload the songs. If I want to own music, I’ll be it on a CD, where I can re-rip it if something happens to it. That’s all I’ll say on that part.

    As far as piracy goes, where should I start? An archaic business model on all ends, bad pricing models, an underhanded, over-reaching, “shoot ’em all and let God sort ’em out” means of copyright enforcement, no return policy for downloaded software or media, proprietary media and DRM formats that force the buyer to sometimes download multiple copies of the same file just so they can use it on different devices and software, the DMCA (which they all cried for), the “we’re not selling it to you, we’re technically leasing it to you, and we’ll tell you how you can use it” attitude, a complete disregard for user’s rights, the list goes on and on and on.

    Nobody has treated end users with any form of respect when it comes to anything we’ve legally purchased or downloaded that falls under the umbrella of the DCMA. Even before that, the licenses on software we legally purchase have at times been extremely restrictive. If you ever care to read the full EULA, you’ll sometimes see that the software can only legally be installed on 1 computer. Again, ONE COMPUTER. If I have two or more PC’s that I personally own, and want that software on them all, I would either have to A) break the EULA, and potentially get into a legal battle with the publisher, or B) purchase a separate license for each piece of software, even if I will be the only person using it.

    It’s not just the DCMA that needs an overhaul (or better yet, be destroyed all together), it’s the entire attitude and business model of ALL the publishers.

    Oh, and there’s a good chance the NIMF got roped into doing this by a big company or two.

  6. 0
    Benji says:

    Also, for those interested who have not read this article yet on Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nail’s latest effort:

    If you hate links, the short version is that their latest project was a four-part instrumental compilation. You could get Part 1 for free, or pay $5 for digital downloads, or pay more for fancy physical media things. And apparently it’s worked quite nicely for them.
    I personally think it’s a great business model. $13 is a rather high cost for a CD if you don’t know if the band’s any good, and it discourages consumers from getting CDs that may be good since if it’s not, you’ve just dropped $13 that you’ll never see again. Instead, you can try some of the music for free, and if you like it you can shell out the cash for more. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s 36 songs for $5 or $10; I for one don’t especially like spending $1 a song except for stuff I really like.

  7. 0
    Marlowe says:

    I agree with nightwing, in one case you’re hurting your fellow consumers, in the other case you are hurting a multi-billion dollar industry that, when it isn’t trying to screw over its costumer base it’s screwing over the very artists it then uses as poster-boys in its arguments against file sharing. It’s called file-SHARING for a reason dammit, I have a right to use the files on my computer anyway I damn well please, and if that means making a copy of them and giving them to a friend fine, if that means simplifying the process and putting them up on a p2p program, so be it. The RIAA MPAA and ESA can go screw themselves, they want respect for their “intellectual property” they can give some respect for my intellect.

  8. 0
    Thad says:

    “Microsoft released results from an online survey showing that teens are less likely to illegally download or share content from the Internet when they understand the laws protecting intellectual property.”

    Except that the phrase “intellectual property” is itself a DETERRENT to understanding the laws, as it lumps the entirely different branches of copyright, patent, and trademark law together.

    Trust Microsoft — the people who changed “Web Browser” to “Internet Explorer” and created hundreds of millions of people who now don’t know the difference between the Web and the Internet.

  9. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The problem with using a comparison of downloading a copy and going into a store and shoplifting is that in the case of the store, a physical product is removed. And once gone, no one else can obtain that specific item. Only so many physical items are made and unless more are, then they are gone forever. Or until someone sells or gives away their copy.

    But in downloading, so long as there is a copy somewhere to download, then there is no limit.

    And that’s what happens when opponents of file sharing face when they use such a comparison. When their audience realizes that no physical copy is denied to others, they have a big gaping hole in their argument.

    NW2K Software

  10. 0
    Benji says:

    I’ve had good experience with Amazon. Yeah, it’s Amazon and not everyone loves them, but they’re DRM free and if you buy by the album it’s usually well under $1 a song.

  11. 0
    jadedcritic ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    At the risk of being labeled an apple fanboy, just get the itunes plus. It’s like an extra 20c and they strip the DRM. Just the MP3, no catch. I don’t mind a buck 50 for a song I like. Say what you will about apple, I have a little respect for them if only because of that slappy-fight they got into with NBC a little while back. Questions of motive aside, because I’m sure their motives are NOT pure as the driven snow, at least it proves that they are willing to draw certain lines in the sand against the people providing the content.

    As to NIMF’s statement, so what? Misguided groups are issuing statements all the time. It’s only harmful if anybody listens, and the truth is there’s already allot of misguided people in the downloading is stealing camp anyway. Heck, there’s allot of misguided people in the consumer camp too. I would argue that the corporate camp is wrong to think they can draw our lines for us, and the consumer camp is wrong to not have lines.

    Cat’s out of the bag. Sooner or later the content providers are going to have to adapt their business model and just accept that absolute control of distribution doesn’t exist anymore. Concentrate on ways to make profit that don’t include draconian control of distribution.

  12. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The problem with most Anti-Piracy techniques is that they are fishing with Dynamite, it’s a non-targetted, indiscriminate attack on anything in the water.

    It’s kind of like the concepts of phone tapping, or MMO monitoring, it’s not about targetting criminals, it’s about not trusting anyone, a case of guilty, with no chance to prove yourself innocent. That’s always been my problem with the whole ideal, ‘In order to protect ourselves from a few, we are going to monitor, trace and judge everyone by the same standards’.

    If, however, it is NOT the few, if there are more people illegally downloading than buying, as the ESA would have us believe, then it still makes me wonder why the ESA doesn’t consider the possibility that their own pricing and non-return policies are actually encouraging piracy? Any other goods on the market could be returned if they are not fit for the purpose they were bought for, and yet digital media expects us to rely on patches, sometimes not even created by the company that wrote the software, and it’s all done in the name of defending from Piracy.

    The ESA digs its own grave on occasion, maybe if they actually started to respect their customer base, rather than assuming we are all criminals waiting to happen, then they would get a little more respect in return?

  13. 0
    Adrian Lopez ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “… an organization which has historically attempted to relate modern digital media to developmental and emotional health issues, getting involved in a fight which is fraught with elements of politics and class struggle?”

    NIMF has always struck me as an organization whose agenda is mainly political rather than scientific, so I can’t say I’m particularly surprised.

  14. 0
    Ryan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Exactly, overly protecting your files so they can only be used by your software is stupid when you can get a cd that works with everything once you upload the files. I bought a couple albums on itunes before I realized this and really I wasn’t able to use some of my favorite songs on this cool game audiosurf I recently got. Anyway thank you for that apple /sarcasm.

  15. 0
    gs2005 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I didn’t know the NIMF did anything useful to begin with…if I was a parent, I would NOT use them, at all.

    NIMF is just like other “watchdog” organizations-it’s for parents who don’t want to think for themselves.

  16. 0
    Skylar ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The main reason I won’t download from iTunes or Napster is because of the stupid DRM they put into every file.

    Sure, I could strip it out, but that’s just extra work for me to use something I PAID FOR on the devices I WANT.


  17. 0
    Ace of Sevens ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I disagree. It’s important to have someoen going after this as a moral issue rather than just protecting their bottom line, not that NIMF has a lot of credibility in the moral arena.

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