Chris sat quietly with his back to me. I knew he could feel my tension. You don’t become a teenager without mastering the ability to detect each parent’s annoyance if only from the cadence of their breath. He tried to pretend he didn’t notice but a hasty rash of searches gave him away. If only he could find the song before I broke into a rant…
…Click, click, click…
“OK Chris, I want to tell you something important.”
…Click, click… “Crap. Too late,” he thought as he turned to look at me with a half broken smile.
“There’s been a lot of crazy news about Napster. I don’t mind you using it. But there is one really important safety tip. Every time you download a song, I want you to drag it to this music folder. Then make sure it gets deleted from Napster. That keeps people from spying on our computer and keeps me out of any trouble.”
“OK dad.” He replied, “Thanks!”
He turned quickly back at the screen, but not before I caught the subtle twitch of his smile becoming whole again.
Click, click, click…
Yes, I taught my son to leach.
It’s not that I’m especially proud of teaching Chris to leach. I only mention it to reinforce the absence of any political statement. In Texas, parents don’t teach their kids to fear guns. They teach them to handle guns safely. It was simply the right decision to solve an important problem.
I don’t expect my claim of “rightness” to pass unchallenged. Copyright crusaders will certainly condemn the decision on legal grounds. P2P advocates will criticize its ethical inconsistency. I don’t care. I’m not claiming to be “righteous”. Just effectively correct.
I checked the computer every few days to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. Chris found the song he was looking for. Turns out it wasn’t Nirvana after all. Once he’d played it for his friends he lost all interest in Napster. I counted a grand total of thirteen mp3 files all moved safely out of danger. Then it was back to his DVD collection. Chris never discovered the war. More importantly, the war never discovered him. He learned a new skill, built a little self-confidence and took the first shuttle off Alderaan.
Effectively, my decision was a clear win. Parenting is a very easy job to fuck up. You can spark rebellion even while espousing the most righteous of intentions. Better parents than me couldn’t manage to get Jesus to wash his hands.
The music industry’s approach, on the other hand, would be… well… less effective.