(Lesson is adapted from the ** website lesson** Students as Creators: Exploring Copyright)

  1. Introduce students to the Copyright Organizer handout.
  2. Explain that they can use this handout to list general resources, including text, images, or sound, that they want to incorporate in their own projects. They then can find and list specific resources that would work, where they are located, and what their copyright status is.
    • If students are working on a specific project, they can use this sheet to organize the materials for that project. Be sure the rubric or assessment for the project includes a strand for checking the organizer.
    • If they are not, they can use this sheet to practice finding materials and assessing their copyright status. In that case, the classroom teacher and library media specialist may want to suggest some general types of material for them to look for, such as a sad song or a cheerful picture. Encourage students to list resources that are not in the public domain, as well as resources that are. Ask students if there are any images or sounds that they listed on the Copyright Organizer that are not in the public domain. Ask them whether there is another way they legally can use these resources.
  3. Direct students to the Copyright Kids! section on Getting Permission to use copyrighted works, and ask them to turn to a partner and together read the information offered there. The site offers contact information for major organizations for music, film, television, and books; this information can help students find the appropriate contact person for copyright permission. Have students look together for this information. The site also offers sample letters requesting permission to use copyrighted materials. The University of Reading also offers reference information about contacting copyright holders.
  4. Explain that even if students are creating their own videos or photography, they may need to obtain permission in some circumstances, even though the final videos or photographs are their own work.
  5. Ask students who they might need to obtain permission from before using their own photography or video in a project. Explain that they need to obtain permission from any people featured in their videos or photographs, as well as the owners of any copyrighted objects (such as a statue or monument) that will be featured. Permission for incidental people or objects need not be obtained. If necessary, discuss scenarios to clarify this:
    • If a work of art, such as a statue, is the subject of your photograph but a person happens to be walking by when you snap the shot and is in the photograph, you will need permission from the copyright holder of the statue, but not from the person walking by.
    • If your friend is the subject of your photograph, and he is standing in front of a statue, you will need permission from your friend, but probably not from the copyright holder of the statue.

  1. Discuss any questions students may have about identifying a copyright owner, writing for permission to use a work, or determining when permission is needed to use a photograph or video they have taken.
  2. Students who want to use a copyrighted work in their own projects can write for permission to use the work. Students can adapt the sample copyright permission letter or use the Letter Generator to compose their requests. If an email address is available, this could speed up the response time significantly. In any case, alert students to the possibility that they may need to wait several weeks for a reply and that their requests could be denied. Allow students to proceed with the requested item in their own projects (under Fair Use guidelines), but caution them that they will not be able to publish their works on the school Website or on disks unless and until permission is received.
  3. Students who are working with student-created video or photography can develop a simple release form for the subjects in their photographs/videos.
  4. If students are not working on an authentic project, you may want to have them write practice letters for permission instead. Be sure to have them research the proper recipient for the request.

Copyright Resources:

__Copyright Kids!__
Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines for Teachers
The Copyright Site
Teaching About Copyright and Applying Fair Use - wiki
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")