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Microsoft swoops into schools to teach P2P morality

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Teenage intellectual property (IP) law swotters are less likely to illegally download music and film files from the internet than their clueless counterparts, Microsoft claimed yesterday.

Redmond is now looking to bring the rest of the kids up to speed by pushing its own IP curriculum in schools.

The software giant reckoned that many youngsters between the delicate, transitional ages of 13 to 16 are woefully ignorant of the law when it comes to free file-sharing over the web.

Microsoft based this on a small survey (501 teens) in which it found that nearly half of all youngsters were unfamiliar with the rules and guidelines for downloading images, literature, music, movies, and software. In contrast, only one in 10 said they understood the rules "very well".

Those wholesome teens steering clear of illegal downloading credited their good behaviour to their parents, and stuff they had read in magazines, on the web, or from watching the television.

But schools appeared to lag behind when it came to teaching the kind of web etiquette a software multinational like Microsoft would – and is – openly encouraging.

So the firm has put up its own beta website in the hope of convincing young miscreants to abandon their BitTorrent-loving ways and become "good online citizens".

MyBytes, which looks and feels like a middle-aged man hopelessly trying to get down with the kids, is a clunky social networking style site that is thinly-veiled as a fun forum for teens to get their cultural kicks. Look! ringtones!

The main nuts and bolts of the survey hinges on Redmond's decision to push an IP rights curriculum, aimed at middle and high school teachers.

Topics Education will help Microsoft carry out its field test, which will initially run until the end of next month. If it proves successful the firm said it would give it the red carpet treatment later this year.

This is not the first time Redmond has attempted to condescend to educate kids. In 2004, it backed the Business Software Alliance's "Play It Safe in Cyber Space" campaign.

So far, however, there's no real sign of swaths of people turning down the volume, unplugging their computers, and abandoning peer-to-peer networks in favour of actually parting with cash for Britney's latest single.

Just last month The Pirate Bay claimed that it had hit 10 million peers and one million torrents on its BitTorrent tracker site. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, afterall. ®

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