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Fair use and social media


In this lesson, students will review the concept of fair use and discuss how it applies to social media. Students will explore the terms of service of various providers and gain an understanding of who owns what content and what can be done.


  • Students will gain a deeper understanding of fair use.
  • Students will be able to articulate conditions under which content on social media can be used.
  • Students will be able to make proper ethical decisions about re-using other people’s work.

Common Core State Standards



Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


One 50-minute class period


Slideshow: Fair use

Handout: Assessment and rubric

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction – 5 minutes
Invite students to share a few of their favorite memes or to define or describe what a meme is.

Open the Fair Use slideshow and start class by reviewing the memes. When you get to Slide 5, discuss and take questions from the class. Proceed to Slide 6 to explain the objectives of the lesson, and tell students they will be discovering these answers on their own.

2. Direct instruction – 15 minutes
Have students take notes on the content in slides 7-10. Explain that they will be making judgments on three actual cases regarding whether the works should be protected under fair use guidelines.

3. Group discussion/activity – 20 minutes
Use the presentation (slides 11-22) to have students discuss the three cases.

4. Assessment/homework
Create closure by conducting a class discussion about fair use in the time of social media as you reveal slides 23 and 24. Issue the assignment on Slide 25, taking questions at the end of class so students can complete as homework.


Students can be asked to write responses during the activity on slides 11-22.

Instead of group discussions, the teacher can use Think-Pair-Share techniques with the activity on slides 11-22. Equity cards can also be used as a tool for calling on students.