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SPLC media law presentation: Copyright


An overview of copyright law and how it pertains to the student press. Students will be exposed to several aspects of copyright law including basic definitions of fair use and public domain.


  • Students will learn the basics of copyright law.
  • Students will examine exceptions to copyright law — including Fair Use and Public Domain.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).


45-60 minutes


Slideshow: Copyright law

Slideshow with teacher notes

Handout: Copyright student worksheet

Teacher answer key: Copyright student worksheet answers

Scholastic Press Rights Minute: Creative Commons licensing

Scholastic Press Rights Minute: Understanding fair use

Scholastic Press Rights Minute: Using photos from social media

Lesson step-by-step

1. Journal prompt 1 — 5 minutes

Pretend you are running a local store. You find someone has stolen at least 100 packs of gum. Each pack of gum costs you 25 cents, and you sell each for 75 cents total for a profit of 50 cents per pack. (You’ve now lost $50) What would you do? How does that make you feel?

Transition to slideshow:

Similar to what you journaled about, when someone violates a person’s copyright it affects the owner because either her or she doesn’t get credit for the work or aren’t paid for the work. Today, we’re going to learn about copyright and its importance in student media.

2. Slideshow — 40 minutes

Go through the SPLC slideshow. Use the teacher notes as talking points for instruction. Some student worksheet questions are exclusively from the teacher notes section.

(Hand out student worksheet students will complete during the slideshow.)

Stop at slide 34 then play the Scholastic Press Rights Minute on Using Photos from Social Media.

Ask students to provide reasons why they shouldn’t just use photos from social media for their publications.

Stop at slide 41 then play the Scholastic Press Rights Minute on Fair Use.

Ask students to outline how they can use this for their publications.

Stop at slide 54, then play the Scholastic Press Rights Minute on Creative Commons.

Ask students to outline how they can use this for their publications.

3. Journal 2  — 5 minutes

Has your perspective changed from the journal at the beginning of the hour? How and why?

(Teacher should look at these after the students leave. Teacher could use these as further review the following day.)

While students are journaling, ask them (two or three at a time) to write one fact they learned today either about copyright. Students quickly and quietly should pass the white board markers on to the next students when they finish.

4. Large group debrief — 5 minutes

Teacher (or students) should highlight what the students put on the board. This should reinforce what they learned.