10 Things To Know – and Teach — About Copyright

Every day, students interact with digital media in a variety of ways, as consumers and creators.  But do they know the basic ground rules set by copyright and fair use?  Most don’t.  This is an essential element of modern digital literacy, and it needs to be taught.

That’s where Copyright and Creativity comes in.  C&C offers educators a full suite of K-12 teaching resources that are easy to use and totally free.  There are lesson plans, slides, videos that walk through the more legalistic bits, and a professional development course for teachers who want a little brush up – or an introduction – before teaching it to students.

So what do students need to learn?  I recently had the opportunity to discuss copyright education with Jeff Bradbury on his AskTheTechCoach podcast.[add link]  There was plenty to talk about!  But among C&C’s education resources is an infographic poster entitled “10 Things You Should Know About Copyright.”  It offers a good high-level introduction to the topic.  (Of course, C&C’s various videos go into more detail and offer concrete examples.)  Here, briefly, are the ten things to know: 

  1. We’re all both consumers and creators of creative work.  As consumers, we watch movies, listen to music, read books, and more!  As creators, we take photos, write songs, make videos, etc.
  2. Copyright protects creative work, so people can’t generally copy or share or protect other people’s work without permission.
  3. Copyright comes from the Constitution. Its purpose is to promote more creativity.  The idea is that letting each of us decide what happens to our own creations will encourage us to keep creating.
  4. All creative work is protected by copyright as soon as it is written down or recorded or saved – and not just works by professional artists or big studios. Copyright protects all of us – our photos on Instagram and everything we write or create.
  5. If you copy other people’s creative works without permission, that’s called copyright infringement. An example would be streaming or downloading movies, music, ebooks, or games from illegal sources that operate without artists’ permission. Copyright infringement is illegal and carries serious penalties.
  6. Copyright gives a lot of protection, but it also has limitations. Not everything gets copyright protection.  Facts and ideas are not protected by copyright.  Neither are U.S. Government documents, like NASA photos and reports by federal agencies.
  7. Another limitation of copyright is “fair use,” which allows us to copy and re-use copyrighted work without the artist’s permission in certain, limited ways that still are fair to the creator.
  8. When students re-use portions of someone else’s work for a school project – like using images or songs for a presentation in class – that’s a fair use situation. You don’t need the author’s permission.
  9. Copyright protection doesn’t last forever. Eventually, it expires, and the creative work falls into the “public domain.”  Works in the public domain are free to re-use and share however you want.
  10. Some creators are happy to share their creative work. They use a licensing system for sharing called Creative Commons.  You can find millions of CC works that are free to share or re-use.

Speaking of Creative Commons . . . that’s how C&C’s resources are licensed.  So you’re free to go to the website, register (it’s free), and then use and display the materials you find there in any way you see fit.  Questions?  Reach out at info@copyrightandcreativity.org.  And if you like C&C’s resources, please help us spread the word!

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