Teaching the concept of copyright

Ideas for teaching about copyright

While many students have a clear understanding of theft in relation to physical objects such as a pencil or DVD from a shop, many do not understand why taking digital resources from websites or file sharing digital content from copyrighted sources is a problem. As educators, we have a responsibility to make sure that students are aware of the law and the impact of what they are doing. This page has some suggestions on how to go about this and invites you to contribute your own ideas.

Idea one - Be a positive role model as an educator

One of the reasons that students often feel it is OK to take digital material is that they see this modeled around them all the time. During one class discussion with Year 4 children, almost every child in the class indicated they had either downloaded something themselves or knew of someone else that had done so. As an educator, you need to show that you are considering digital content rights every time you present something to the class and bring their attention to it. If you have put together a presentation to show to the class, use Creative Commons licensed images and make sure you include the attribution information. Let the students know that you value digital content rights through the way you make use of it in your own classroom.

Idea two - Have high expectations of the students

While it may be more time consuming for both your students and yourself as the teacher, you should expect that students will make the effort to respect content creators when putting together their presentations in the classroom. If they are old enough to search the internet for themselves, then they are old enough to make sure that they follow copyright guidelines. Expect that students will always cite their sources and don't accept content that has clearly been copied and pasted or downloaded without consideration of ownership from the web. Encourage students to respectfully challenge each other about digital content they have used.

Idea three - Put students into situations to help them understand the concept

One educator recently shared his strategy for helping his students understand how it feels to have content copied or stolen without permission. He gets the students to create a digital presentation which includes original digital artwork. He then gives this work to another group who present it to the class as if it had been their own presentation and take the credit. He then explores with the class how it feels to be in this situation and the importance of respecting the rights of creators.

Idea four - Give students resources and strategies to 'stay legal'

Make it easy for students to access material that they are able to use. Put links to Creative Commons search engines on your class homepage or wiki. Teach students about Google Advanced Image Search options. Work with students on ways to take information from the web without copying and pasting.

Getting your ideas

Reflection: We would love to hear your ideas on how to help students understand the general concept of copyright. Add them to the Stixy area below. Note that ideas specific to teaching about Creative Commons can be added to that page.

Other resources to consider:

This is a resource created for educators in the US. While some of the information about copyright laws do not apply in New Zealand, it still has useful ideas on teaching about the concept of copyright.

How do you explain illegal downloading to kids - an online article

Cyberbee - Copyright
This site has questions about copyright that students might ask with answers for them. Again, the is a US site so some of the laws are a little different but it is still a useful resource.