Skip to contentContribute to ReadWriteThink / RSS / FAQs / Site Demonstrations / Contact Us / About Us



Contribute to ReadWriteThink

ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, videos, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.



Professional Development

Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.



Did You Know?

Your students can save their work with Student Interactives.

More more

HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Copyright Infringement or Not? The Debate over Downloading Music

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)


Copyright Infringement or Not? The Debate over Downloading Music

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Eight 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Suzanne Taylor

Frostburg, Maryland


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Session Five

Session Six

Sessions Seven and Eight


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • evaluate Websites and online information.

  • extract main ideas and supporting details from online resources.

  • analyze arguments for and against a position, paying particular attention to the role of point of view.

  • take a stance on a controversial issue, based on their research.

  • defend their positions in classroom debate, providing supporting facts and details for their arguments.

back to top


Session One

  1. Ask students to respond to the following questions in their journals:

    • What do you know about downloading music on the Internet?

    • Have you ever downloaded music? What Web resources have you used?

    • What do fans, artists, and companies think about this practice?

    • Do you feel it is okay to download music? Why or why not?

    • Why would some people call it piracy?
  2. After about 15–20 minutes, ask students to discuss their responses with the rest of the class.

  3. Through the discussion, identify some class experts: students who frequently use downloading technology.

  4. Invite the class experts to share what they know about the ways that the technology works and how they use it.

  5. Ask students to record their questions about the legalities of downloading in their journals.

  6. Explain that during the following sessions, the class will complete Internet research on these questions and related issues.

back to top


Session Two

  1. Ask students to use the Debating Music Downloads Web Resources to explore a number of Websites on the subject of downloading music.

  2. If students need additional practice evaluating Web resources, conduct a mini-lesson using the resources from the Inquiry on the Internet: Evaluating Web Pages for a Class Collection lesson plan. Remind the to consider these key questions as they research online:

    • What makes a source reliable?
    • What biases do you expect encounter during your research?
    • How do the audience and purpose for the site relate to the information included?
  3. Encourage students to take notes on the Web Resources as they examine the sites, using the Analyzing Opinions on Music Downloads chart to organize their findings.  Remind students to attribute information to the approrpriate source on the chart.

  4. Allow for another research and notetaking session as necessary.

  5. At the end of the session, ask students to share some of the information they have discovered.

  6. Remind students to bring their charts and any other notes to the next session.

back to top


Session Three

  1. Ask students to compile their research, notes, and printouts to prepare for further examination of the related issues.

  2. As a full class, in small groups, or in their journals, ask students to share their opinions on the controversy surrounding music downloads, using the following questions to guide discussion:

    • Do they agree with record companies, artists, or fans?

    • What are the arguments for downloading?

    • What are the arguments against downloading?

  3. Explain the final project to students: Students will join teams of 3 or 4 students. Working together, teams decide whether to take a pro or con stance with regard to music downloading. Using the Persuasion Map, teams will outline their main arguments and supporting facts and details.

  4. Present information on debate roles and rules. Point to the information on the site on organizing arguments for debate and planning strategies.

  5. Pass out and discuss the Debate Rubric, so they know what they are aiming towards with their debate.

  6. Allow the rest of the session for students to choose a project and stance, join groups, make plans, and gather ideas.

back to top


Session Four

  1. Remind students of the assignment, and answer any questions.

  2. Demonstrate the Persuasion Map for the class, and answer any questions students have about the final project options.

  3. Allow students the remainder of the session to complete the Persuasion Map and work on their debates.

  4. Circulate through the room, and assist them as they work on the pros and cons of downloading music.

  5. Encourage students to refer all of their collected information as they make points and structure their arguments.

  6. Remind students to print out their Persuasion Map by the end of the session.

back to top


Session Five

  1. Remind students of the project criteria, pointing to the Debate Rubric.

  2. Answer any questions students have about the project and the criteria.

  3. Discuss the importance of structuring debates with the information from Taking Sides Debates or Lincoln/Douglas and Team Debate Format.

  4. Allow students the reminder of the session to structure and prepare their debates using index cards (where they can record notes and key points).

  5. Provide assistance and feedback as necessary. Encourage students to share questions with peers for feedback and support as well.

back to top


Session Six

  1. Remind students of the project criteria, and answer any questions students have about the project and the criteria.

  2. Allow students to work on their arguments and notes for the majority of the session.

  3. With approximately 30 minutes remaining in the session, gather the class and assign groups to debate each other.

  4. Present the debate guidelines, and encourage students to use the list to assess and clarify their positions.

  5. Answer any questions and assign groups to different areas of the classroom where they can practice their debates.

  6. Provide assistance and feedback as necessary.

  7. Remind students to come to the next session ready to present their arguments.

back to top


Sessions Seven and Eight

  1. Remind students of the criteria for their presentations, and allow a few minutes at the beginning of the session for students to make last minute preparation.

  2. Structure student debates so that students turn-taking flows smoothly.

  3. As students present their positions, assess their work using the Debate Rubric.

  4. When the debates are completed, invite classmates to provide others with verbal feedback.

back to top



  • Instead of debating their positions, have students write persuasive papers summing up their positions on downloading music. The paper should include their main arguments for or against and to support their arguments with facts or details. Students will use the Persuasion Map, outline their main arguments and supporting facts and details. Pass out the example position statement and go over the persuasive writing scoring guide so they understand the criteria for the project.
  • Once students have completed the lesson and their debates, the class can periodically revisit this topic and any updates or changes in the legal status of music downloads.
  • Students can give multimedia presentations on downloading, including some of the programs they use and the music they download.
  • The EconEdLink lesson plan Online Mayhem I: Metallica Versus Napster presents additional information on copyright infringement and music downloads. The information provides a useful supplement to the debate process.

back to top



This lesson lends itself to a great deal of teacher observation during each session. Take notes on students’ progress, comments, and work habits throughout the research and composing process. If desired, respond informally to the ideas that students gather in their journals. Use the Debate Rubric to assess the final presentation formally.

back to top