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

Technology and Copyright Law: A "Futurespective"

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


Technology and Copyright Law: A "Futurespective"

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


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Sessions Three and Four

Session Five


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will:

  • research past and current copyright issues related to new technologies.
  • report on their research.
  • write newspaper articles predicting the future.


Note: In addition to the stated NCTE/IRA standards, this lesson is also aligned to the following American Association of School Librarians Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.

  • Standard One: Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge
    • Respect copyright/intellectual property rights of creators and producers.
    • Follow ethical and legal guidelines in gathering and using information.
  • Standard Three: Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society
    • Use information and technology ethically and responsibly.
    • Respect the principles of intellectual freedom.

back to top


Session One

  1. Divide the class into small groups of students, and give each group a set of Technology Timeline Cards. Challenge students to place the technologies quickly in order from oldest to newest.
  2. Show students the Copyright and Technology Timeline overhead, and look together at the first date.
    • What technology do you think made it necessary to write the first copyright law?
    • What medium did the first copyright law cover?
  3. Briefly read through the other copyright changes on this timeline.
    • What do all of these changes have in common?
    • How does the order of the changes to the copyright laws relate to the technologies that students placed in order on the timeline?
  4. During discussion, students should note that the changes to copyright law correspond roughly with the new technologies they placed in order.
  5. Explain that copyright laws change over time to cover new technologies and new uses of technology as they develop. Sometimes this process creates problems, as new technologies are developed and sometimes abused before copyright law is adapted to cover them.
  6. Ask students to brainstorm with their group any recent disputes over copyright that they have encountered in the news or in daily conversations.
  7. When students have finished, ask groups to share their ideas with the class. Make a list on the board of all the disputes students noted. If the list is limited, mention and add some additional disputes, such as file sharing on YouTube; music downloads; the use of thumbnail images, links to news articles, and cached pages in Google Search and Google News; the use of freelance articles or photographs in digital versions of newspaper or magazines; or other copyright issues in the news. Copyright Timeline: A History of Copyright in the United States also has information about recent copyright disputes.
  8. Ask students which of the disputes on the list have something to do with technology. Circle the items they mention. Use the following questions to guide the discussion:
    • What portion of the disputes they have heard about have something to do with technology?

    • Why might so many copyright disputes involve technology?

    • Is there a way to predict what copyright issues might arise from new technology or from technology that hasn’t even been invented yet?
  9. Explain that students are going to research some recent and current copyright disputes related to technology and report on them to each other. Assign a topic to each group from the list you created on the board.
  10. Give each student a copy of the Copyright Research Organizer handout and direct them to the Copyright Research resources you bookmarked before the lesson. Give students time on the computers to find at least one or two resources—print, audio, or video—about their topics.
  11. Have students complete the Copyright Research Organizer with information they have gathered about their topics. They can consult with other members of their group to pool their resources if desired.
  12. When students have completed their research organization, have groups “jigsaw” or break off into new groups comprised of one member of each original group. Students should take turns sharing information about their copyright issues with their new groups.

back to top


Session Two

  1. Ask students to think back a few years as they consider the following discussion questions:
    • Are there any technologies that they use now that were not widely available a few years ago?

    • What are some of these technologies?
  2. Show students a picture of an early computer, such as ENIAC. Early on, when computers were so large, they were located at universities and other research centers and used in specialized ways. Few people could have imagined that computers one day would be small enough to be found in homes across the world. Nor would they have imagined the new copyright issues, such as peer-to-peer file sharing, that emerged from this use of computers.
  3. Ask students to brainstorm some existing technologies that we use one way today that may be used in new, innovative ways in the future. List students’ ideas on the board.
  4. Ask students to imagine 5 years in the future. What new communication technologies can they envision? How about in 10 years? 20? List students’ ideas on the board.
  5. Ask students to think about some of the copyright issues they encountered during their research and group work.
    • Could any of those copyright problems be solved with new technology?

    • For example, could technology be used to make it impossible to photocopy certain print or paper? How might such new technology work?

    • How would it help to solve the copyright problem?

    • What other problems might it solve?

    • What problems or challenges might it create?
  6. Explain to students that they now are going to use the information they have learned about copyright issues and technology, as well as some of the new technology ideas they listed, to predict problems and changes that may happen with technology and copyright in the future. They then will use an interactive tool to write articles explaining those predictions and combine the articles to create a “Copyright Futurespective” edition of a classroom newspaper.
  7. Give each student a Copyright Article Assignment sheet, and review it together.
  8. Share with students the Writing Rubric you will be using to grade their work. Answer any questions students have about the assignment.
  9. Have students answer the questions on the Copyright Article Assignment.
  10. After students have answered the questions and decided their article topics, give them a copy of the Copyright Future Organizer.
  11. Explain to students that they will plan their stories much as they planned their research reports. Normally, when writing a newspaper article, reporters use this structure so that they can be sure to include all the facts of the story. Since students are writing an article predicting the future rather than reporting on something that has happened, they will use the organizer in a slightly different way.
  12. Give students time to plan their article using the handout as a guide.
  13. Have students turn in their completed organizers. Together, review the organizers, and hand them back to students prior to the next session.

back to top


Sessions Three and Four

  1. Return students’ completed organizers with classroom teacher and library media specialist comments. Allow time for students to adjust their writing plan based on educator feedback.
  2. Give students a copy of the ReadWriteThink Printing Press Layouts. Explain that they will be using an online tool to publish their articles and that this handout shows the layouts that are available for their use.
  3. Point out that some layouts have one large main article, while others have a shorter main article and two or three additional short articles. Students should think about which layout will work best for them and select a layout for their newspaper pages.
  4. Once students have selected a layout, ask them to work on the rough draft of their article(s). Prompt students to consider the size and number of articles in the layouts they have selected as they write their drafts.
  5. When students have completed their rough drafts, have them work with partners to peer review one another’s articles. The ReadWriteThink lesson Peer Review: Narrative explores some peer review strategies that could be adapted for use with students’ articles.
  6. Ask students to make revisions prior to the next session.

back to top


Session Five

  1. Demonstrate how to use the Printing Press interactive:
    • Select a type of publication (newspaper), enter your name, and get started.

    • Select a layout.

    • Scroll through the tutorial, and show students how to turn the guide on and off.

    • Ask students for some ideas for a newspaper name. Agree on one as a class, and type it into the appropriate box. Type “Technology Section” in the appropriate box. All students will need to use these names in their work to create a cohesive paper.

    • Use the text tools to adjust the text.

    • Click finish, and then select “Print Single-sided Pages” to print.
  2. Have students type their articles into the tool, incorporating their revisions.
  3. Ask them to self-edit their finished work before printing.
  4. Caution students to print out their work, and check that the printout is correct before closing the tool.
  5. Compile students’ pages into one special “Copyright Futurespective” edition by binding together the pages.

back to top



  • Since issues related to technology and copyright are always changing, assign a pair of students as “roving reporters” each month. These reporters can report back to the group on a designated day with any updated news about copyright and technology issues the class researched, as well as any new copyright issues in the news. When a new topic catches students’ interest, they can create a special edition newspaper about it.
  • Explore more about copyright with the ReadWriteThink lessons Copyright Law: From Digital Reprints to Downloads and Exploring Plagiarism, Copyright, and Paraphrasing.

back to top



  • The classroom teacher and library media specialist should observe students’ participation in the group research project.
  • Collect the Assignment Sheet, Copyright Future Organizer, and rough draft of each student’s article to assess collaboratively his or her writing process.
  • Work together to create a rubric to evaluate students’ final articles. Adapt this sample Writing Rubric to reflect the agreed-upon classroom goals for grammar and mechanics as well as content.


back to top