By Helen Dowd
The record industry was under fire last night after launching a scheme to teach primary schoolchildren – possibly as young as five – not to illegally download music from the internet.
Lessons teaching pupils about copyright law are already being piloted in six schools and could be rolled out across the country.
Critics suggest the initiative is designed to protect commercial interests rather than provide a valuable educational experience.
The anti-piracy scheme is run by music industry consultant Ruth Katz, who also works for record giant EMI.
She says she is funding the school scheme independently, but it is supported by music industry organisations, including the EMI Music Sound Foundation – a charity set up by the label to improve music education.
Critics have questioned whether young primary schoolchildren would even know how to download music without assistance.
Don Foster, Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, questioned the project’s educational value.
He said: ‘This is not a major topic we should be introducing for children at such a young age. Primary schools have got overcrowded curriculums as it is.’
Ms Katz has worked extensively for EMI on measures to prevent illegal downloads.
She wrote on a website profile: ‘I have initiated an education programme for primary schoolchildren to teach them about copyright and anti-piracy.
‘The project has tremendous support from music industry associations, notably the IFPI [International Federation of the Phonographic Industry] and UK Music [the organisation that supports artists’ interests], the EMI Music Sound Foundation and the Department for Children, Schools and Families along with other music-related industries.’
She said she hoped to extend the project across the country with Government support by September 2010.
After The Mail on Sunday contacted her about the project she changed her profile, removing all mention of the project’s anti-piracy aim and groups supporting it.
It then read: ‘I have initiated an education programme for primary schoolchildren to teach them about the broader aspects of creativity and making music.’
Ms Katz told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I’m financing the project entirely myself because I believe it’s an important subject.’