Lesson 17: Digital Sharing


Loaned to Computer Science Fundamentals by the team over at Copyright and Creativity, this lesson exists to help students understand the challenges and benefits of respecting ownership and copyright, particularly in digital environments. Students should be encouraged to respect artists’ rights as an important part of being an ethical digital citizen.


Students will soon be creating projects to share and most of these projects will contain either code or imagery that students did not create themselves. This lesson is here to show students the proper way to handle the use of content that is not their own.


Warm-Up (Optional) (15 min)

Ethical Sharing (30 min)

Wrap-Up (10 min)

Extended Learning

View on Code Studio


Students will be able to:

  • Interpret ethical sharing of copyrighted material vs. sharing that is not ethical.
  • Understand their own rights regarding materials that they have created


  • Locate the copyright sharing video at Digital Sharing Ethics (Video) - Video
  • Download and review the complete Digital Sharing Lesson Plan from Copyright and Creativity
  • As the teacher, create a piece of art for the lesson (picture, song, slideshow, etc.)
  • You will need a tablet or smart phone to replicate the sharing of that item


Heads Up! Please make a copy of any documents you plan to share with students.

For the Teachers

For the Students


  • Copyright - the exclusive legal right to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same


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Teaching Guide

Warm-Up (Optional) (15 min)

The following writing exercises are designed to create context, help students engage with the topic, and prepare them for the lesson discussion.

Watch: Have students watch the one-minute Digital Sharing Ethics (Video) - Video. You may need to play it two or three times.

Write a Character Sketch

Ask students to write a character sketch about one or both of the characters in the video. Be as creative as you can. There are no wrong answers. Give these characters a life of their own, whatever you want it to be.

Prompt with questions:

  • Who is your character?
  • What is his/her name?
  • Who are his/her friends?
  • How long have they known each other?
  • Who are the people in his/her family? What are they like?
  • What’s his/her backstory?
  • Where does he/she live?
  • Where did he/she used to live?
  • What exciting thing might have happened to them back in kindergarten, first grade, etc.?
  • What is he/she looking forward to?
  • What is he/she afraid of?

NOTE: These exercises may also be done orally as a class discussion before the copyright lesson. Write the story or character sketch on the board as students contribute ideas.

Ethical Sharing (30 min)

Activity: Have all of your students stand up. Begin reading the list of ways to create content below. Instruct students to sit down as soon as they can answer “Yes” to one of the prompts.

  • Have you ever made a video (on a camera, phone, iPad, or computer) and sent it to a family member or posted it online?
  • Have you taken a photo and sent to a family member or posted it online?
  • Have you created a piece of art to share with your family and friends?
  • Have you made up a song to make your friends laugh? Or a sad song to make them cry?
  • Have you written a poem for your mom or dad on their birthday?

Keep asking similar questions until the entire class is seated.


  • How did it feel to produce something creative?
  • How did you feel when you were able to share your creation with others?
  • How do you feel when you view or listen to other people’s creations?

Encourage all responses.

Help students feel the joy of creating something. Creating can be a lot of hard work, but it is one of the most rewarding things we do. Sharing what we create is fun, and it can encourage more creativity and art. As we get older, we have more and more opportunities to share our work and explore media and art that other people have created. We want to make sure we are always fair when using others’ art and creative work.

Say: Remember, copyright protects all kinds of creative work so that artists/creators can get paid for their effort. This includes, original writing (stories), art, photographs, audio, images, music, song lyrics, even the doodle you drew on your napkin at lunch. It doesn't matter if it was created by a famous artist or by you. When you make an original work, you get to decide who can:

  • make copies
  • distribute copies
  • display or perform the work in public
  • make spin‐offs; we call these derivatives (for example, like a book being made into a movie)

These rights are given to artists and creators to encourage them to make even more creative work.

Think: Have students think back to the art creation prompt where they first sat down. Inform them that they created an original work with legal protection. Congratulations!


  • How might you know if something is copyrighted?
  • [The circle © indicates copyright, but copyright protection exists even without the symbol. Creators have ownership over their work, unless they sell it to someone else.]
  • Where have you seen the copyright symbol?
  • [At the front of books, in movies, on images, posters, etc.]

Share: Encourage students to share their answers with the class.

Demonstrate: Show students how to draw a copyright symbol and write the year next to it. When you make something creative like this, it’s automatically protected by copyright, even without the copyright symbol.


  • How does it feel when you share your things with someone else?
  • What does it feel like when someone takes your things and shares them without your permission?

The same principles of respect and fairness apply when we share our work or someone else’s work online.

To Share or Not to Share?

Demonstrate: Pull out the instructor’s creative work: picture, song, story, video, recipe.

Discussion Goal

Okay to Share

  • I made this. That means I own it. I think I’m going to share it. I’m going to take out my phone (iPad, camera, etc.) to get a picture. I think I want to share it on my blog where I might make some money advertising on[Use the site of your choice.] Is this fair?
    • [Yes, this is OK to share because I made it — I own the copyright.]
  • What about a song I wrote? Can I share that? . . . Who gets to decide?
    • [“That’s right, I do.”]
  • What will happen when I share it?
    • [Take responses: “It’s fun, . . . I’ll get a bunch of ‘likes’ . . . People will want to use it for mashups.”]
  • Let’s say you draw a picture to sell at a school art show. The money from the art sale will go to buy new library books. Is this a good share . . . is it ethical?
    • [Yes.]
    • Why is this share OK?
      • [Take responses: “It’s yours!”, “You made it. You own it. You can choose to share it.” ]

Discussion Goal

Not Okay to Share

  • Have you ever transferred songs to your friend’s MP3 player? Is that OK?
    • [If it’s a song you hear on the radio, it’s most likely protected by copyright and NOT OK to share, copy, and give away.]
  • What if your friend invites you to his house to watch a movie that just came out on DVD? This is one of your favorite movies. You want it on your phone, so you can watch it whenever you want. So, you take out your phone and record the movie. Is this a fair way to get a copy of the movie?
    • [No. This is not OK to share/copy. Why? Because you don’t own the right to make a copy and give it away.]
    • How else could you get an authorized (legal) copy of the movie for your phone?
      • [iTunes or Amazon sell movies legally.]

Watch: Have students watch the one-minute Digital Sharing Ethics (Video) - Video. You may need to play it two or three times.

As we watch the video, decide if the music is OK to share or not.

Discuss: What did you think of that? How do you think you would feel if you wrote a song and people shared it without asking for your permission? When we share digital files by:

  • sending pictures or songs through email
  • copying songs from our MP3 player to our friend’s computer
  • copying a movie from a DVD to all our friends’ computers

That's not just sharing, it's making new copies!

Teaching Tip

Demonstrate the following by handing a book to a student:

Sharing a digital file is different from face‐to‐face sharing. If I hand you my book to share it with you, you have the book and I don’t—that’s sharing. If I hand you my iPod, so you can listen to my music, that is sharing. If I share a digital file with you—like a song or a movie or computer game—we both end up with the file. In that case, we made a copy. If I copy my songs for you to put on your iPod, that is not sharing—it’s copying. Making copies of copyrighted work hurts the artist/creators. In addition, P2P sharing and torrent sites can put your computer at risk for bad stuff: malware, ads, and worse.

Discuss: If you were one of these characters in the video, what could you do to share fairly? What about other sharing situations? What other ethical considerations are there?

(Some acceptable responses:) - Send your friend a link to the artist’s YouTube channel where she can listen to the song. - Help your friend buy the song from an online store that you can trust because it’s used by a large online community, like iTunes or Amazon.

Ask yourself: Who owns this? Do I have permission to share? Do I have a right to make a copy? Am I being fair to everyone involved?]

Wrap-Up (10 min)

Remember, copyright is a protection given to writers and artists for a limited time to let them receive payment for their work. It’s intended to foster more creativity. As we share and use, we need to respect each other’s work and the laws of copyright. Just because we own a copy of something does not mean we have the right to make more copies to give or sell to other people. Copyright gives us some protection over how our art will be used and shared by others.

Journaling / Flash Chat

Having students write about what they learned, why it’s useful, and how they feel about it can help solidify any knowledge they obtained today and build a review sheet for them to look to in the future.

Journal Prompts:

  • What was today’s lesson about?
  • How did you feel during today’s lesson?
  • Give an example of a way that you have seen other creators share or remix someone's work. Do you believe that was fair? Why or why not?

Extended Learning

Please be sure to visit Copyright & Creativity to find more lessons on digital sharing and creative rights.

Standards Alignment

View full course alignment

CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2017)

AP - Algorithms & Programming
  • 1B-AP-12 - Modify, remix or incorporate portions of an existing program into one's own work, to develop something new or add more advanced features.

Cross-curricular Opportunities

This list represents opportunities in this lesson to support standards in other content areas.

Common Core English Language Arts Standards

L - Language
  • 4.L.3 - Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
  • 4.L.3.a - Choose words and phrases to convey ideas precisely.*
RI - Reading Informational
  • 4.RI.1 - Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
SL - Speaking & Listening
  • 4.SL.1 - Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • 4.SL.1.b - Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.
  • 4.SL.1.c - Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.
  • 4.SL.1.d - Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.