The Copyright WebQuest


by Miguel Guhlin, Consulting

Last Updated Sunday, February 13, 2005 10:02 AM

Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Conclusion | Quiz | Copyright Presentation | Print PDF Materials


"Uhh," I started intelligently, "I want to make a class set of these." The CopyMax guy looked at me like I was nuts. Then, politely, he reminded me about copyright law. Of course, I nodded my head, how could I have ever thought to make class sets of Slave Dancer for my students to read?

Like many educators I know, I've always felt the way that Maureen Pilgrim, a librarian, a Guardian of Copyright Law, shared with me in her presentation on the Big6:
All ideas are stolen,
modified to look like
they’re not stolen,
and shared among thieves.

Of course, that attitude can get you in lots of trouble. After all, violating copyright law didn't seem to hurt anyone when I first started teaching...but now, violating copyright law appears to have serious legal consequences for all. Whether you stack VCRs to make a quick copy of a Disney video, use CD-Recordables to make copies of songs off the Internet, existing music CDs, or educational software, it is clear that times have changed.

But, as always, changing copyright law remains a gray area for most of us. What exactly is copyright and how does it apply to us? How can I teach my students to do work with technology that protects intellectual property and does not stifle creativity? In the space of 60 minutes, you're going to grapple with these questions and more.

The Task

To develop an understanding of copyright law and how it applies to you, you need to develop a thorough understanding of what you are allowed to do under copyright, and, what you are not allowed to do. One way for you to get there is to critically analyze a number of copyright scenarios and discuss them from multiple perspectives. That's your task in this exercise. If you're short on time, patience, or want to try a different way, you may want to review the presentation and then take the online quiz.

By the end of this lesson, you and your group will answer these questions:

  1. What is meant when someone says, "That's copyrighted" and what is fair use?
  2. What is the best way to limit district liability in regards to copyright violations?
  3. What does copyright law say about including copyrighted multimedia in educator and student products?
  4. How do you get permission from the copyright owners to use their materials?

The Process

You have several choices for getting the information you need to respond to the 4 questions above. You will need a copy of your district's acceptable use policy and, if they have one, their copyright & software policy. You can find some sample policies in the Resources section. Below are your 3 choices:

  1. Divide the whole group into small groups of four. Each small group member will assume one of the different roles shown below:

    The Copyright Author: You've spent over a year developing a collection of thematic lessons that are correlated to state and national education standards, incorporate videotape, your original artwork, and some really great ideas. Your publisher has just notified you that they believe your copyright is being violated, but rather than pursue the issue themselves, they've asked you to put your talents to work at designing a guide for teachers who want to use copyrighted materials in their classroom. A little angry at the creative uses other teachers have put your work to without compensation, you begin....

    The School Administrator: In your mind, the best use of technology is the one that results in the least amount of litigation. You've heard from your campus librarians that several teachers are developing web pages that use copyrighted images, sounds, multimedia (like MP3 music clips) and you are concerned that it won't be long before you are embroiled in a lawsuit. You just want to stop the Internet and can't wait for this fad to be over. You decide to analyze school district policy to see how the district may have missed the mark on copyright policy. Begin...

    The Librarian: As a guardian of copyright law, you're a bit scandalized by the wide-scale copying of copyrighted materials in your school. You are in charge of your school's software checkout program. Teachers come to you to check out the installation CDs. Right now, the system is a mess. Even though you know who is checking out the software, you're not quite sure how teachers are using the software. Begin...

    The Technophile: What a wonderful thing the Internet is! Last night, you downloaded MP3 music via your high speed cable modem and burned it on a CD with your CD-Recorder. The school computer doesn't have the right software to do graphics editing, so you found the pirated version on the Web, downloaded it and installed it on your computer and everyone else's at your grade level. Now, all of you can work on the End of School Memory Project. Begin...

  2. Individually, you'll examine each of the concept builder activities shown for your role on the list of resources and develop a set of guidelines from the perspective of your role. After completing the concept builder, be sure to CREATE YOUR FULL REPORT and PRINT it out. You'll need to examine each site fairly quickly. Don't spend more than 45 minutes on your concept builder. Research, analyze, and communicate quickly.

  3. When everyone in the small group has printed out their reports, it's time to get together to answer the following questions. One way to proceed would be to go around and poll each team member for their understanding of the concepts. Pay attention to each of the other perspectives, even if at first you think you might disagree with them.

  4. After identifying the main points from each of your perspectives, pool your perspectives and be prepared to share 3 important points from your work.

  5. One person in each group should record the group's thoughts using this worksheet. (Please note that your independent research using the Concept Builder may not have covered the gaps in your copyright knowledge. If you are unsure of the answers to the questions on the worksheet, you may want to refer to the presentation.)

  6. When debriefing time is called, use the worksheet to speak from as you report your results to the whole class. Do you think the other groups will agree with your conclusions?

  7. Take the Copyright Quiz. The answers to the Copyright Quiz should pop up when you select the correct response. This said, here's the answer key for the quiz (resist the temptation!).


Here are the supporting resources for this webquest:



When you're done discussing what you have learned, it is hoped that you will have understood the importance of copyright law and where you stand as an educator, as well as developed some strategies for adhering to copyright law and sharing your understanding with your peers and students.



Other Copyright & Fair Use Resources

Copyright & Web Sites - Explore several aspects of the period

Fair Use Guidelines - Prepare a lesson for younger students

The Copyright Site -

U.S. Copyright Code -

10 Big Myths about Copyright Explained

More Copyright Links


Copyright 2000-2002 by Miguel Guhlin. Last updated on Sunday, February 13, 2005 10:02 AM
Disclaimer: The author is not a lawyer. This work does not constitute legal advice.