Kick off a conversation about plagiarism, fair use, and creators' rights in your classroom.

4 Great Lesson Plans on Copyright

Many kids -- and even adults -- don't fully understand the power of copyright law. As we all know, the internet makes it extremely easy to use other people's work without permission. But access to all this content also gives us incredible opportunities for creation and critical thinking. Helping your students understand the nuances of copyright law, the doctrine of fair use, public domain, and Creative Commons licenses can support their development as critical, creative digital citizens.

Young kids understand respect and fairness, and copyright at its most basic level can be explained in these terms. With older students, in addition to focusing on what qualifies as plagiarism, you can introduce the complexities of copyright, including the doctrine of fair use, which gives students the right to remix and critique media. Kids of any age can feel incredibly validated to learn that the law protects their ideas and creations. To kick off the conversation in your classroom, we've gathered a few great lesson plans to get you started.


Let's Give Credit
(Grade 2)

How can you give credit for other people's work?

With so much information at our fingertips, students learn what it means to "give credit" when using content they find online. Taking on the role of a detective, students learn why it's important to give credit and the right ways to do it when they use words, images, or ideas that belong to others. 


A Creator's Rights and Responsibilities (Grade 4)

What rights and responsibilities do you have as a creator?

It's common for kids to use images they find online, for school projects or just for fun. But kids don't often understand which images are OK to use and which ones aren't. Help your students learn about the rights and responsibilities they have when it comes to the images they create and use.


The Four Factors of Fair Use
(Grade 7)

What rights to fair use do you have as a creator?

Kids can be voracious consumers -- and creators -- of media, and it's easier than ever for them to find and share digital content online. But do middle-schoolers know about concepts like fair use, copyright, and public domain? Give students a framework they can use to better understand how fair use works in the real world.


Main photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.

Bronwyn H.

Bronwyn is an author, educator, and editor living in the East Bay. She is originally from Petaluma, California, and earned a bachelor's of science in psychology from UC Davis, and a multiple subject teaching credential from CSU Sacramento. Bronwyn began her teaching career in 2000 in the most violent neighborhood in Oakland, California, and has since written a book about her experiences: Literally Unbelievable: Stories from an East Oakland Classroom.Bronwyn has written for Teaching Tolerance and AlterNet, among others. She is an avid reader and knitter and uses Common Sense reviews to guide her on movies for her nieces and nephew.