Microsoft To Pilot 'Intellectual Property Rights Education' Curriculum

Following on the heels of its newly released survey on illegal downloading among students, Microsoft this week announced that it will launch a new curriculum for middle school and high school students focusing on intellectual property.

According to Microsoft's survey (available here in PDF form), released Wednesday, students are less likely to engage in illegal downloading if they're aware of the laws governing downloading and sharing copyrighted materials. However, nearly half of the students surveyed were not aware of these laws, and only 11 percent claimed to have a clear understanding of them.

For those who said they had a clear understanding of the laws, parents were the primary source of their information for half of the students. Schools played only a small role in conveying information about illegal downloading to students, beaten out by stories on television, on the Web, and in magazines and newspapers. Only 9 percent reported teachers as their primary source of information about downloading and sharing content.

The survey involved 501 teens in grades 7 through 10. It was conducted in January by KRC Research on behalf of Microsoft and has a margin of error of ±4.4 percent with a 95 percent confidence level.

"Widespread access to the Internet has amplified the issue of intellectual property rights among children and teens," said Sherri Erickson, global manager of Microsoft's Genuine Software Initiative, in a release Wednesday. "This survey provides more insight into the disparity between IP awareness and young people today and highlights the opportunity for schools to help prepare their students to be good online citizens."

In answer to these findings, Microsoft said it will pilot a new curriculum for middle school and high school students called "Intellectual Property Rights Education." The company has commissioned custom curriculum developer Topics Education to help launch the new curriculum. It will focus on "preparing students for the digital age, helping them understand in a meaningful way how intellectual property rights affect their lives and sparking discussion to clarify the 'gray areas' in protected and shared content," according to the company.

The curriculum is being field tested in classrooms through March. Those interested in providing feedback or participating in the tests can do so by clicking here.

Microsoft has also launched a new beta site called MyBytes, which allows students to post their own content and set permissions for users and groups. The site also provides space for sharing opinions and learning about intellectual property rights.

About the Author

Dave Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's educational technology online publications and electronic newsletters.