Teaching Copyright and Fair Use

teachingcopyright_orgThe Electronic Frontier Foundation has a very useful website for Teaching Copyright issues. It is an excellent resource for teachers on a tricky subject. The website covers the issues in a balanced way I feel—it clearly states downloading copyrighted music without permission is illegal. However many of the subtle areas of fair use are discussed which are the important parts. I used their first lesson plan today and while the kids loved the Copy Quiz Game Show, I had some suggestions overall. I emailed them, but I thought I’d post them here too for others.

First of all, I made the mistake of jumping right in and not setting the context—why should my students care about copyright and fair use? I found my students took a while to focus and I think an introduction on the value of the lesson would help.

Second, some of the questions in the Copy Quiz Game Show are somewhat difficult to interpret when said out-loud. E.g. question 8: “Kathy downloads a few photos of local organic farms from Flickr.com… She follows the rules of the photographer’s specific CC license… That’s OK.” The true/false question hinges on just the last sentence and it is unnecessarily hard to parse when spoken aloud. Which “that” is ok? Also, in some of the questions, the teacher reads out statements which are false, such as “Paula wants to use a short quote from the Titanic in her school paper. That’s copyright infringement.” This statement is false, but in the confusion of the game, that is too easily lost. The students remember what the teacher said, but the true/false part is overwhelmed in the player’s run for a chair and the ensuing struggle. I recommend the questions be rephrased as situations, and the chairs are labeled as Legal and Illegal. That way students are concentrating on the situation and if it is legal or not. Rather than the specific phrasing of the last tricky sentence.

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