Copyright law is an extensive and complex subject. Rules change with time, and also vary from one country to another. Although "all rights reserved" and "public domain" seem fairly straightforward, rules (such as what constitutes "fair use," when and how copyrights expire, and what is automatically copyrighted or automatically in the public domain) may vary from one type of work to another and from one country to another. Licenses that permit certain types of use or certain degrees of sharing, altering, and remixing, can also have different ramifications depending on the type of creative work. (For example, some rules or licenses are more relevant or useful to video creations, while others are more pertinent to protecting or sharing written works.) Your class may also be planning to enter creations in contests, display them locally or on a particular website, or submit them to magazines or other edited publication venues, all of which may constrain or affect the licensing that you would want to choose. In short, I cannot even begin to provide here all of the copyright and licensing information that might be pertinent to your project.
As the instructor, you may choose to investigate the subject and create a presentation about relevant licenses for the creative activities in your classroom. If it is feasible, however, I recommend turning this step into a hands-on, active-learning class inquiry on the subject. This should help engage students in the presentation and discussion, and will also help them learn how to find this type of information when they need it.
- Goals - The students will practice investigating, thinking critically about, and presenting arguments concerning, the legal, ethical and creative aspects of intellectual property.
- Grade Level - Recommended for secondary and adult students
- Student Prerequisites - Students should possess the skills necessary to conduct an independent literature search.
- Teacher Expertise - Expertise in copyright law is not necessary. Be prepared to help students locate resources and to guide them in critically thinking about the usefulness and trustworthiness of the sources they find.
- Time Requirements - Allow at least two weeks with few other assignments, for the students to organize, research, and create their presentations. Schedule some in-class time during which the group can work on their presentations while you check in with each group to ensure that they have been doing their research and that they are critically evaluating their sources and their findings.
- Objectives - In response to a set of questions, each group of students will cooperate to locate relevant sources of information, critically evaluate the usefulness of each source in answering the questions, and create an accurate and well-reasoned presentation to educate their classmates on what they have learned. Students in each group will also engage with other group's presentations, asking pertinent questions and discussing their findings.
- Evaluation - You can assess each group's learning based on the extent of their research, evidence that they evaluated their sources or their prior assumptions thoughtfully and critically, the quality of the presentation, ability to answer questions about their presentation, and thoroughness of any written report and reference list.
- Adaptations - For younger or less experienced students, you can simplify the investigate task by providing a list of approved resources, or by providing copies of the resources and scheduling time for research during class when you can answer questions and help them locate what they need.
- Extension - Extend the activity by asking each student to choose a specific example of the reuse or reworking of a creative work to research and write about, with a focus on the effects of copyright freedoms or restrictions. Examples of possible subjects: a reworking of a famous story, such as H. C. Anderson's Little Mermaid or Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet; the rules regarding the reproduction of a famous work of art, such as the "Mona Lisa"; or the negotiations over movie rights to a famous book, for example the Harry Potter books and movies.
Introducing the Inquiry Activity
- You will begin this activity by introducing the research assignment. Explain that the students will be choosing a publication license for the works that they have been creating, so they need to understand what the options are, and the ramifications of each option, for the creator and for others.
- You can pique interest in this activity by presenting some facts, stories, history, and/or news items that your students will find relevant to their personal and creative interests and to this class project. The list of Investigate is a good starting point for finding information that will get the attention of the students.
- Explain that each group will research a specific type of licensing that is relevant to your project. Tell them the date of the discussion class period, and explain that they should arrive to that class ready to give a formal presentation and to answer any questions their classmates will have about it. Hand out copies of the research questions and your expectations for the research and the presentations (for example, minimum numbers of research sources or time limits on presentations).