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Scouting opportunity

A Boy Scout initiative to battle movie pirating could be the start of something big: industry partnership.

October 28, 2006

HOLLYWOOD MARKETERS can sell almost anything to youthful moviegoers -- just look at the grosses for "Barnyard: The Original Party Animals" ($72 million), "Jackass: Number Two" ($71 million) and "John Tucker Must Die" ($41 million). The studios' toughest sales job, though, may be persuading kids to stop downloading free movies from the Internet.

That's why the Motion Picture Assn. of America has been urging schools and youth groups to hammer home the message that downloading a bootlegged movie is just like shoplifting a DVD, only without the tamper-resistant packaging. If kids understand that pirating is against the law, maybe they won't do it. Or maybe they'll just feel guilty about it.

The MPAA's latest partner in this effort is the Boy Scouts of America's Los Angeles Area Council, which recently launched a program to teach members about copyrights, piracy and its effects on the movie industry. Any of the 52,000-plus Scouts in the region can earn an activity patch -- not quite a merit badge -- by demonstrating the importance of protecting copyrights. The local council sought the MPAA's help to craft the program after hearing about a similar effort the studios launched with the Scouts in Hong Kong.

This partnership is not the first time the Scouts here have teamed up with outside organizations on activity programs. There were previous patches handed out in connection with the Salvation Army (to collect canned food), Habitat for Humanity (to build homes for the poor) and environmental organizations (to clean beaches). But the MPAA's move suggests a brave new world of creative partnering opportunities with entertainment and technology groups.

The Distributed Computing Industry Assn., whose members use file-sharing technology for legitimate businesses, could sponsor a "Copying for Profit" program to teach Scouts about new methods for distributing movies, music and games. The Consumer Electronics Assn. could back a "Betamax Rules!" exercise showing Scouts legal ways to copy movies and music for personal use. The Screen Actors Guild could produce a "Share the Wealth" session to explain why their members should be paid more when movies and TV shows are delivered online. And the Teamsters could sponsor an "Exporting Jobs" activity about the effects of runaway production.

There are plenty of candidates outside of Hollywood too. For starters, how about a "Coyote Population Control" session with the California Varmint Callers?

The possibilities are as endless as a screenwriter's imagination -- but probably not as useful as learning how to build a fire.

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