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Lesson Plan

Students as Creators: Exploring Copyright

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Students as Creators: Exploring Copyright

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Cassandra Love

Asheville, North Carolina


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



This lesson gives students the tools they need to consider the ethical issues surrounding use and ownership of copyrighted materials. Students discuss how to tell if a work is protected and how copyright affects their ability to use resources in their own work. They use five key questions to determine if they can legally use a resource. Students then use specific tools and resources to find works that are in the public domain and explore how to contact copyright holders for permission to use works that are not in the public domain. Next, students practice properly citing multimedia resources. Finally, students explore how and when to protect their own works from copyright infringement. This lesson can be used in conjunction with any student project to address copyright.

This lesson plan was developed as part of a collaborative professional project with the American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).

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"Can I Use It?" Checklist for Copyright Clearance: Students and teachers can use the chart on this printout to determine if a particular resource can be legally used in students' work.

Copyright Organizer: Students can use  this printout to document resources they may want to use in a project or paper.

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Fair Use law relaxes restrictions about acceptable use of copyrighted material in student work. It is still important, however, that students understand the more stringent rules that apply outside Fair Use. They will need to work within these rules outside school, and, as is increasingly common, when publishing their works on the Web. By giving students strategies for determining whether a use of copyrighted work is acceptable, demonstrating the means by which they can obtain permission to use a copyrighted work, and asking them to consider the possibility of copyrighting their own works, educators foster an understanding of both the purpose and means of respecting the intellectual property rights of others.

Further Reading

Hobbs, Renee. Copyright Clarity: How Fair Use Supports Digital Learning. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2010.


Copyright Kids. Copyright Society of the USA. 2007.


NCTE Executive Committee, November 2008. Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education. Online: http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/fairusemedialiteracy.


Hobbs, Renee. "Best Practices Help End Copyright Confusion". The Council Chronicle 18.3 (March 2009): 12-27.

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