The Business Software Alliance (BSA), a software advocacy group that fights piracy and educates computer users on copyright laws, has launched an anti-piracy campaign targeted at schools. Called “Reboot Your Attitude,” the campaign’s goal is to teach K-12 students the importance of ethical software use.

“Technology is becoming so prevalent in education today, and students are now exposed to software at such a young age,” said Jason Penchoff, communications manager for the alliance.

“If we teach them to make ethical judgments about software now, hopefully they’ll remember these lessons later in life,” he added.

With help from Scholastic Inc., BSA has developed a curriculum guide, poster, and classroom activities to communicate to students what software is, what it means to own it, what constitutes the legal and illegal use of software, and what the consequences are of its illegal use.

The group has distributed free copies of the curriculum guide to about 180,000 teachers across the country. It also has posted the information to a companion web site at www.nopiracy.com.

The focus of the Reboot Your Attitude campaign is on BSA’s own version of the “Three R’s”:

€ Rights–for knowing who owns the rights to software and the conditions of its use;

€ Responsibility–for understanding and abiding by software copyright law, “even if you think you would never get caught”; and

€ Respect–for the people who invested the time and energy to develop the software.

“Only recently has the ethics side come into play as an important part of computer education,” Penchoff said. “Students might not realize that if they copy a video game for their friend, they’re breaking the law. We want to show them it’s no different from stealing the game from a store.”

According to BSA, software piracy is a serious problem both in the U.S. and worldwide. About 25 percent of all software in the U.S. is pirated, and piracy costs the computer industry more than $11 billion each year, the group says.

Schools were reminded how serious an issue piracy can be in a high-profile case involving the nation’s second-largest school district (after New York City). Last year, BSA sued the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for using at least 1,400 unauthorized copies of several programs, including Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, and Adobe Photoshop.

In a settlement reached this past February, LAUSD agreed to pay the group $300,000, plus spend an additional $1.5 million over the next three years to find and eliminate pirated copies of software and train staff and students in the ethical use of software.

School districts have a special responsibility to their communities and to their students to abide by the rules, said Bob Kruger, BSA’s vice president of enforcement. “It would be a terrible situation if students were learning it’s okay to copy software (illegally),” he said.

Through the Reboot Your Attitude campaign, BSA hopes to make sure that doesn’t happen. The campaign was officially launched in May with a ceremony at Oakton High School in Vienna, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C.

BSA representatives were joined by U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Susan Moger, senior editor at Scholastic, as they led a discussion with students on the issue of piracy.

Oakton was chosen as the site for the launch because computer teacher Gail Schmura had approached the software alliance earlier to help her incorporate ethics into the school’s computer curriculum, Penchoff said.

BSA plans to hold similar events at other schools in the future, he said.

Business Software Alliance

http://www.bsa.org

Scholastic Inc.

http://www.scholastic.com

Los Angeles Unified School District

http://www.lausd.k12.ca.us