Can I Use That? Exploring Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons

This lesson helps students understand and harness their intellectual property rights and responsibilities as they create, remix, and share.

Photo of Gail Desler
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Consuming, creating, and curating media is an important part of students' lives. The Common Core State Standards recognize that “To be ready for college, workforce training and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, report on and create a high volume and extensive range of print and non-print texts in media forms old and new.”  In order for our students to become effective, ethical creators of information and media, they also need a strong understanding of the concepts of copyright, fair use, and Creative Commons, and how to apply these concepts across the curriculum and beyond the school day

The goal of  the Can I Use That? lesson is to reduce copyright confusion, to examine fair use as a reasoning process, to learn about the role of Creative Commons, and to explore the possibilities of remix in teaching and student creations.

Share research or student experiences that informed your idea!

Today's students are part of the remix generation. Therefore, teaching students solely about plagiarism is only one aspect of understanding intellectual property. To ensure that our students use the Internet and social media in an ethical manner to both consume and create content, we need to also include instruction and guidelines to Creative Commons, copyright and fair use.


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Photo of Gail Desler

Thanks, Jennifer, for a great suggestion! Will revisit the lesson and resources with grade levels in mind.

Photo of Jennifer Gaspar- Santos

Yes and let me know if I can help in any way!

Photo of Jennifer Gaspar- Santos

Hi Gail,

Just took a look at your hyperdoc. I like the questions and quick links to resources that you provided!

Are you able to add a grade level sequence to it? Or perhaps take one of the squares (just to test the idea out) and add links for grade levels.

i.e. K-4th grade, 5-8th grade, 9-12th grade, each grouping would have a resource that would fit that grade level.

Or perhaps on each square, there is a age level appropriateness heading telling the teacher which level it is best suitable for.

For example --- A Fair(y) Use Tale
How did Professor Eric Faden create this documentary?

I found this quick link to the response of your question above:

I would definitely put those under 6-8th or 9-12th grade.

When I search for ideas with our Librarian for our Media Literacy collaboration we do at the beginning of the year, one of the things I struggle with is finding age-appropriate materials. We work in a 9th-12th grade setting and personally, I find it's easier to adjust ideas and concepts to bring them to a mature level our students will understand rather than break big ideas and concepts like "Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License" for a 5th or 6th grader.

I can see this making the lesson more accessible for teachers.

Just putting an idea out there---feel free to adapt it based on what works with your vision.

Can't wait to see what you come up with !!

Photo of Gail Desler

Thanks, Paul, for the tips. Heading in to revisit and review Can I Use That?

Photo of Paul Kim

Hi Gail,

First of all, thanks for participating in this collaboration between the Teachers Guild and ISTE. We really appreciate your contributions!

We’re in the last week of the build phase of the challenge on digital citizenship so it’s time to fine tune your idea before final voting begins next week.

Here are some things to consider as you continue to build on your idea:
- is your idea clear and will it inspire action from other teachers?
- would it be easy for a teacher to incorporate your idea about digital citizenship in their classroom?
- does your idea include some component of research and are there shareable resources?
- is your idea student-centered and does it promote agency?


Photo of Ronald Ochoa

This is an extremely helpful tool for students AND instructors!

Photo of Robert Appel

Thanks. This is a great resource!

Photo of Kevin Day

I love this idea. And I love the format of your lesson.
I'd love, love, LOVE if our school could try to run this idea with some students next year, and give you some feedback on how it went...? (Both a question to you -- if you're cool with that -- and a question I'm putting out to the universe. I'll also ask our tech leader on Monday to check out your hyperdoc, if that's okay.)

We are indeed in the "remix generation". At the same time, there is more primary source info (documents, images, artifacts -- everything) getting digitized by the hour -- which not only means there is more creative expression available to our younger learners than ever before, but as many opportunities to NOT give enough credit where credit is due.

Thanks for sharing a fully-baked, fully excellent idea, friend...!

Photo of Nancy Penchev

Remix is also the term Scratch uses when students take someone elses work and make it their own. That would make a relevant connectuon for kids who do coding with Scratch.

Photo of Larry Corio

Gail Desler This is such a relevant and timely concept. As you note, there's a growing trend among digital users, especially younger ones, toward remixing and adapting content with impunity. Content is so freely shared that, in many cases, it's nearly impossible to identify the origin of an image, video, or quote. It seems students could adopt a "detective" approach to identifying the source origins for widely shared content. This could be a fun hook!