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Lesson Plan

Copyright Law: From Digital Reprints to Downloads

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Copyright Law: From Digital Reprints to Downloads

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



Looking at how and why copyright law has changed over time can help students better understand recent and current copyright disputes and the many perspectives involved in these ownership issues. In this lesson, students read about the history of copyright law, create a timeline of key developments in the law, and generalize about how and why it has changed. Students are then given a recent copyright topic and assigned a role. They look at the copyright issues from the perspective of the role they have been given and create persuasive arguments to convince others to see the issue from that perspective as well.

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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Persuasion Meter: Students can use this handout to provide peer feedback on any persuasive speech.

Topics and Roles Outline
: This handout give an overview of sample copyright disagreement topics and roles for the persuasive writing assignment.

Persuasion Map: This interactive graphic organizer enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay or debate.

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The U.S. Constitution provides the basis for all copyright law in America in Article I, Section 8, which gives Congress the power to "secur[e] for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Over the centuries since that right was established, the practice of intellectual and artistic property rights have evolved in complicated ways, influenced in particular by business desires to protect and extend revenue-producing texts and media.

As the Copyright Kids! page for Parents and Teachers explains, "It is important for anyone who creates and/or uses copyrightable materials-including kids-to understand what the U.S. copyright law permits, what it restricts, and why." This lesson explores the complex rights that protect words, images, and other media in the United States today by asking students to explore current copyright dilemmas in ways that lead to increased understanding of the issues.

Further Reading

Newsome, Cathy. 1997. A Teacher's Guide to Fair Use and Copyright. 27 April 2007. Web. http://home.earthlink.net/~cnew/research.htm


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.

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