Copyright Infringement or Not? The Debate over Downloading Music
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This lesson takes advantage of students' interest in music and audio sharing as part of a persuasive debate unit. Students investigate the controversial topic of downloading music from the Internet. They draw upon their prior knowledge and experience by discussing their own sources of music and Internet practices then conduct Internet research to investigate the history and legal issues of copyright infringement related to sharing audio files. Students use graphic organizers to synthesize information as well as to evaluate content and point of view. After students map their information, they take a stand on the controversy and develop persuasive arguments on their position that they present in a class debate on the subject of downloading.
Debating Music Downloads Web Resources: Students use these Web resources to become familiar with the issues related to music downloads.
Analyzing Opinions on Music Downloads Chart: Students can use this chart to analyze the music download debate from multiple perspectives.
From Theory to Practice
Providing students with an opportunity to explore contemporary issues through formal debate focuses instruction on argumentative and persuasive structures within the context of an active rhetorical situation with a clear audience. As Randi Dickson explains, "Integrating writing and debate encompasses multiple strands of language arts: students read and view a variety of texts for information and understanding, write for real purposes, hone their listening skills, and practice speaking in front of an audience. They incorporate research and library skills and often include historical and scientific texts. A unit on argument also moves the traditional literary texts out of the forefront and makes room for teaching through a variety of texts" (35).
Second, the focus of debate on contemporary issues increases student engagement in the project and prepares students for participation in a democratic society. Dickson asserts, "Students who engage in writing and debating about current social, political, and historical issues learn to participate in making judgments and understand why beliefs are formed and held" (35). This process of informed exploration and debate encourages critical analysis rather than snap decisions and encourages students to consider building support for the positions that they take.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- Preview the Debate Over Downloading Music Links to check that the school's firewall will allow the sites to be viewed.
- Reserve computer lab time to conduct research as well as to work with the Persuasion Map.
- Make copies of the Debate Rubric.
- Make copies of the Analyzing Point of View Chart.
- Test the Persuasion Map on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- See Debate Central from the University of Vermont for a wide variety of information about debate, including learning materials, videos of debates, instructional videos, debate news, and links to debate organizations.
- 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.
- 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?
- What do you know about downloading music on the Internet?
- After about 15–20 minutes, ask students to discuss their responses with the rest of the class.
- Through the discussion, identify some class experts: students who frequently use downloading technology.
- Invite the class experts to share what they know about the ways that the technology works and how they use it.
- Ask students to record their questions about the legalities of downloading in their journals.
- Explain that during the following sessions, the class will complete Internet research on these questions and related issues.
- Ask students to use the Debating Music Downloads Web Resources to explore a number of Websites on the subject of downloading music.
- 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?
- 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.
- Allow for another research and notetaking session as necessary.
- At the end of the session, ask students to share some of the information they have discovered.
- Remind students to bring their charts and any other notes to the next session.
- Ask students to compile their research, notes, and printouts to prepare for further examination of the related issues.
- 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?
- Do they agree with record companies, artists, or fans?
- 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.
- Present information on debate roles and rules. Point to the information on the site on organizing arguments for debate and planning strategies.
- Pass out and discuss the Debate Rubric, so they know what they are aiming towards with their debate.
- Allow the rest of the session for students to choose a project and stance, join groups, make plans, and gather ideas.
- Remind students of the assignment, and answer any questions.
- Demonstrate the Persuasion Map for the class, and answer any questions students have about the final project options.
- Allow students the remainder of the session to complete the Persuasion Map and work on their debates.
- Circulate through the room, and assist them as they work on the pros and cons of downloading music.
- Encourage students to refer all of their collected information as they make points and structure their arguments.
- Remind students to print out their Persuasion Map by the end of the session.
- Remind students of the project criteria, pointing to the Debate Rubric.
- Answer any questions students have about the project and the criteria.
- Discuss the importance of structuring debates with the information from Taking Sides Debates or Lincoln/Douglas and Team Debate Format.
- Allow students the reminder of the session to structure and prepare their debates using index cards (where they can record notes and key points).
- Provide assistance and feedback as necessary. Encourage students to share questions with peers for feedback and support as well.
- Remind students of the project criteria, and answer any questions students have about the project and the criteria.
- Allow students to work on their arguments and notes for the majority of the session.
- With approximately 30 minutes remaining in the session, gather the class and assign groups to debate each other.
- Present the debate guidelines, and encourage students to use the list to assess and clarify their positions.
- Answer any questions and assign groups to different areas of the classroom where they can practice their debates.
- Provide assistance and feedback as necessary.
- Remind students to come to the next session ready to present their arguments.
Sessions Seven and Eight
- 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.
- Structure student debates so that students turn-taking flows smoothly.
- As students present their positions, assess their work using the Debate Rubric.
- When the debates are completed, invite classmates to provide others with verbal feedback.
- 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.
Student Assessment / Reflections
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.