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

Begin the lesson by watching the video, Respecting Creative Work, from the Commonsense Media website.

Respecting Creative Work from Hauser Jr. High on Vimeo.


1. Give each group a copy of the __"Can I Use It?" Checklist for Copyright Clearance__, and review it with students (They may have seen this before in sixth grade). 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?

2. Discuss the public domain. Works that are in the public domain can be used freely by anyone, although the source still should be referenced. Use the handout, What is Public Domain? with your students or for your own reference for some help understanding the concept of Public Domain. The Copyright Term and the Public Domain chart lists specific types of works and whether or not they are in the public domain; it also gives dates for when copyright terms expire for various types of works.

3. The classroom teacher and library media specialist should brainstorm some resources students might use to find images, sound, videos, and so forth, in the public domain. Some possibilities include libraries with collections of old books, online books sites (most of these primarily have texts that are in the public domain), freeware clip art or sound file sites that specifically assign their works to the public domain, and government documents or sites (including NASA and the U.S. Park Service).

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. Using the 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.). Another online reference is Online Sources for Finding Works in the Public Domain. Point out that while these sites are likely places to find public domain materials, students should always check specific materials and collections for copyright notices.

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")