COPYRIGHT LESSON: EXPLORING COPYRIGHT
(Lesson is adapted from the readwritethink.org website lesson Students as Creators: Exploring Copyright)

  1. Begin the lesson with a discussion facilitated by both the classroom teacher and the library media specialist (if possible). Ask students to share their ideas about what it means for something to be copyright protected. Ask them how they can know if something is copyright protected or if it is acceptable to use it in their work.
  2. Have students go to Copyright Kids! and read the first seven brief sections, which discuss why works are copyrighted and which types of works are covered by copyright. Students should be familiar with the first four sections as they were discussed in the lesson "A Creator's Rights." Discuss any questions students might have. Students may be surprised to learn that they can't just use anything posted on the Web or anything that doesn't have a copyright notice.
  3. Discuss with students what considering copyright will mean for projects they create, using the following questions to help guide the conversation:
    • Will you be able to use any images from books or the Web?
    • Will you be able to use your favorite music as background?
    • Will you need to create every image and sound in your presentations yourself?
    • Will you be able to quote a favorite author or lyrics from a favorite song?

4. Divide the students in the class into 6 groups. Go to the Yearbook section of the Copyright Kids! Website, and watch the short introductory movie. Click the Enter the Yearbook button and read the "Welcome to the Yearbook Club!" window to explain their class task. Assign each group to one of the six committees: (1) Characters, (2) Film and Television, (3) Literature, (4) Music, (5) Newspapers and Magazines, and (6) Photography. Each group should select the link in the Yearbook picture that corresponds to their committee, and watch/listen to that topic.

5. Come back together as a group and have each committee report on what kinds of media they found are permissible to use under copyright law. Ask each group to give examples of things they can and can't include in the Yearbook, and what they will need to ask permission to use.

6. Ask students if they know of websites to use, or reliable ways to find images, music, sounds or text that they can use for projects. (Possible sites include: Google Advanced Search (images); Creative Commons (all types); Flickr Advanced Search (images); MorgueFile.com, etc.)

7. Give each group a copy of the "Can I Use It?" Checklist for Copyright Clearance, and review it with students. Explain that there are five basic ways to be sure the resources they use in their own projects are legal under copyright law. If they can answer yes to one of the five following questions, they can use the resource in their work:
  • Did you create it yourself?
  • Is it in the public domain?
  • Is it a type of work that is not protected by copyright?
  • Do you have the copyright holder's written permission to use it?
  • If it is text, are you using a small excerpt from it and citing it properly?


Copyright Resources:

Copyright Kids!
Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines for Teachers
The Copyright Site
Teaching About Copyright and Applying Fair Use - wiki
Cyberbee's Copyright site - easy to use and understand
Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education
Online Sources for Finding Works in the Public Domain
Read:Write:Think website lesson on Copyright
Ball State University's Copyright for Students (has "Links to Free Stuff")

Copyright Friendly wiki - lists of places to find copyright-friendly resources