Thursday, September 28, 2006

How Much is that Doggie in the Window Able to Do about Copyright?

Meet "Lucky" and "Flo," two Labrador Retrievers in the media spotlight. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times in "Hollywood's Latest Weapon" reported that the MPAA has trained these dogs in the art of DVD-sniffing in the hope of sussing out possible pirated goods among imported merchandise. Apparently a DVD has a distinctive odor, just like prohibited food items or illegal drugs. The story was also picked up by the Washington Post, which reported that the pair was trained by a master who had previously prepared his charges for bomb-sniffing duties in Northern Ireland. Of course, the dogs can't distinguish between legitimately produced DVD shipments and ones that contain illegal goods. A dog-fancier website reveals that the canine duo should have their tails between their legs, since they have been working at a Federal Express shipping center in the UK, where -- to the chagrin of their handlers -- they have succeeded in having several packages unnecessarily opened but have yet to catch any actual copyright offenders.

Without the assistance of their loyal companions, the MPAA also testified before Congress during today's hearing on The Internet and the College Campus: How the Entertainment Industry and Higher Education are Working to Combat Illegal Piracy. As a classroom instructor, I must say, however, that I'm more concerned about how my students evaluate scholarly and nonscholarly sources than if they are file-sharing the music of my youth during their off hours. The fact that many students were taken in by a parody cloning site designed to promote the movie X-Men says something about where the real problems lie.

My favorite part of the MPAA website? This fun copyright quiz for tykes!



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