What to Do With Learning Piracy
Learning has been a foundation of any growing society. Good education was costly because it employed the best minds to teach the fortunate who could afford it. But content, much like everything else in our world that once cost to obtain is now available for free. Everywhere. Instead of buying a do-it-yourself book on how to lay tile at Home Depot, I can go online and find a dozen free videos that will walk me through the entire process better than any book could. With the democratization of digital tools and basically free storage, the knowledge base of the planet is growing at an exponential rate. Learning piracy has become a growing concern for content providers who are finding it more and more difficult to charge for their products—from book sellers to higher education providers.
People have always found a way to violate copyrighted information by making illegal copies of songs, movies, and other media. In the past the cost of re-purposing media was the expense of a piece of gear…a transferable mechanism like a tape–even the time it took to rip a CD to create a new copy. Those deterrents, however minor they were, are all but removed from our lives. Most smart phones can accommodate audio, video, and text– and do it in a matter of seconds. My 13 year old son can watch a hardvard lecture on his smartphone while waiting to be picked up from school.
So how should we handle learning piracy where multiple sources are pulled together to facilitate learning without any remuneration to its authors? I’m thinking of TED talks and the brilliant presenters that are available to anyone with a fast connection. Will we still want to pay for a college education in the next decade when we could access the best minds on the planet on any given subject instantly?
I’m not certain of what the answer should be. I know, however, that people are willing to pay for experiences and not necessarily just knowledge. While you can access information instantly and freely, you cannot gain the experience that a collaborative environment creates. However, I am sure we don’t need large, expensive campuses to create such environments.
The question is not as much about the future of education as it is about how learning piracy will become the norm and how content providers should address this shift away from paid, quality content.