Copyright, intellectual property, fair use and public domain are not subjects reserved for lawyers and corporate publishers. Every student who uses the library or the Internet to write a school report needs to understand the basics of what can and can't be copied from someone else's work. And, as creators of reports and projects, students also should know that their work is covered by copyright and just the act of putting it on paper, affords them protection under the law.
Bound by Law? is a digital comic book about a laser-brandishing heroine fighting the Rights Monster as she makes a movie. "A documentary is being filmed. A cell phone rings, playing the "Rocky" theme song. The filmmaker is told she must pay $10,000 to clear the rights to the song. Can this be true?" Along the way, we learn about intellectual property, public domain, and the thin line between fair use and copyright infringement. The comic is available digitally for free (licensed under Creative Commons) or a hard copy can be purchased at Amazon.
Created as a graduate project in Educational Technology Leadership, by Phyllis D. Gardner, this illustrated first-person story starts when our unnamed protagonist copies the entirety of his dinosaur report from NationalGeographic.com. "The teacher said I copied and that I was stealing and a lot of other things that took me by surprise!" In addition to introducing the concepts of plagiarism and copyright, the site demonstrates how to create a citation and make a bibliography.
"Did you know that whenever you write a poem or story or even a paper for your class, or a drawing or other artwork, you automatically own the copyright to it?" Published by the Copyright Society of the USA, this site explains intellectual property, fair use, derivative work and public domain for upper-elementary and middle-school students. It also includes instructions on how to register your own work with the U.S. Copyright Office, and follows the dilemmas of a middle-school yearbook club as they discover how copyright law applies to the creation of a yearbook on CD.
This multimedia presentation from the Library of Congress uses anime characters to demonstrate how copyright protects the rights of the creator. "Copyright Exposed is a short video of Cop E. Wright telling a group of teens the basics of U.S. Copyright Law." In addition to the Flash version, a text transcript (illustrated with stills from the movie) is also available. It also briefly addresses the issue of using material found on the Internet or in your attic. "I found old photos in my garage. Do I own the copyright?"
This straightforward site helps middle-school and high-school students answer the question, "What things can I legally include in a report, presentation or movie?" Along the way, it explains copyright, offers resources for public domain images, and has a great link list of sites that explore copyright in more detail. "Do I always have to follow the copyright laws and rules? You may get around the copyright rules by simply writing or emailing the person who created the work and asking permission to use it."