It’s never too early to start teaching students about plagiarism and copyright, so we’ve put together 3 practical classroom activities that teachers can use to start discussions and raise awareness about copyright.

1. Who owns the copyright?

This isn’t as obvious as it sounds and it’s not always as straightforward as an author writing a book. For example, if your friend borrows your phone and takes a photo, it’s the friend who owns the copyright, not the owner of the device. This also applies to things like tattoos; if the tattooist designed and created the tattoo, they own the rights to the work. The law doesn’t differentiate between mediums used to create and so whether your work is created on a digital platform, paper, or even on skin, you still own the rights to it.

CLASSROOM ACTIVITY: Take a scenario like the ones above and start a debate: who do your students believe owns the copyright?

2. Legal implications

It’s important for students to consider the legal and ethical implications of using someone else’s work, and a good place to start is by looking at famous cases of copyright infringement. Copyright isn’t always black and white, and there has been a cast amount of public discourse around famous cases from a range of sectors that you can refer to.

CLASSROOM ACTIVITY: Divide the class in two and have them present cases for and against the argument of copyright infringement. Examples of famous cases include, Star Wars vs Battlestar Galactica, Robin Thicke & Pharrell Williams vs Marvin Gaye or Apple vs Copyright.

3. Not everything falls under copyright

Things that fall under copyright include works such as books, art, music. But not everything is protected by copyright. Ideas don’t fall under copyright, and nor does fashion, food, facts, or expressions. It’s also important to consider the fact that work is only covered by copyright for a certain amount of time, for example in the UK most work is protected for the life of the author plus 70 years. An interesting exception to this is JM Barrie’s work Peter Pan.

CLASSROOM ACTIVITY: Ask students to sort a list of content into two categories: things that definitely fall under copyright and things that don’t, and then ask them to explain their reasons.

Example list:

Book: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
Fact: The height of Mount Everest is 8,848 m
Play: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Song: Don’t Stop Believing by Journey
Recipe: Victoria sponge
Poem: Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
Art: The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Copyright and intellectual property is always a relevant topic to cover and by planning practical activities around the subject, students can learn about their creative rights and engage in some critical thinking! You can even use these 7 interesting facts when teaching copyright or 7 more facts about copyright!