Lesson 11: Intellectual Property


Students are asked to reflect on who owns their creative works from this class, such as their pixel images, before reading an article describing how ownership can become complicated as analog works become digital artifacts. After reading the article, students watch several videos explaining copyright and introducing them to the Creative Commons. Students then re-read the article answering three questions about the benefits, harms, and impacts of current copyright policy. Students use their new understanding of copyright to form an opinion about current copyright policies and create a small poster justifying their opinion with a quote from the article.


Students have been examining how digital information is created and stored, but they have not closely examined the question of who owns their digital data and what rules govern how that information can be shared. This lesson introduces the concept of copyright by presenting students with an article that challenges their current understanding of digital ownership and makes them wrestle with some of the complexities of owning and sharing digital information. It’s important for students to talk through their ideas and hear the perspectives of their peers as they try to unpack how copyright law can impact society. Ultimately, students begin to form their own opinions about copyright focusing on how these policies impact the world around us and observing who benefits and who is harmed in particular copyright situations.

This lesson is also a scaffold to the larger project that begins after this lesson which includes several tasks that are also a part of this lesson such as, annotating an article, answering questions, and forming an opinion using the article as evidence. Students may need support with these processes during this lesson so they are able to complete the following lesson independently. It is especially important that students use marking the text strategies to help them comprehend and synthesize the information from their article, because they will need to do this in the next lesson as well.


Lesson Modifications

Warm Up (5 mins)

Activity (30 mins)

Wrap Up (10 mins)

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Students will be able to:

  • Explain how copyright and Creative Commons Licenses can be applied to digital works of creativity
  • Argue if current copyright laws are helping or harming society using evidence from an article



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

For the Teachers

For the Students

Teaching Guide

Lesson Modifications

Attention, teachers! If you are teaching virtually or in a socially-distanced classroom, please read the full lesson plan below, then click here to access the modifications.

Warm Up (5 mins)

Discussion Goal

Goal: This discussion doesn’t need to come to a definite conclusion - it should generate more questions than answers. You can complicate this discussion by asking:

  • What if the owner gives you credit for the drawing on the T-shirt - does that make it more or less okay?
  • If we use the pixelation widget, then our image is just a binary number that’s been transformed into an image - can we really ‘own’ a number?
  • What if, instead of this happening a week later, it happened 20 years later. Does that change anything?

Prompt: Imagine you were using some of our pixelation tools to create an image and you posted it online for your friends to see - but, a week later you find out someone took that image and put it on a T-shirt that they’re selling for $10 each. How would you feel in this situation?


When you create materials on the computer, you own them - they are your "Intellectual Property". Using materials created by someone else and trying to pass them off as your own is plagiarism when you don't have the creator's permissions. There may even be legal consequences for using these materials!

However, we can see from our discussion that it can be complicated when we talk about ownership of digital information. Today we are going to explore these issues.

Activity (30 mins)

Activity Part 1: Read the Article (10 minutes)

Teaching Tip

You may find that a topic about digital copyright is in the news when you are teaching this lesson. It may be appropriate and relevant to use those news events in addition to, or instead of, the article in this lesson plan. Any article you use should:

  • Discuss the complexities of owning and sharing digital information
  • Explore who benefits or is harmed by policies around copyright

If you find current news stories that also cover these points, you may want to consider using those articles here. This is also a good opportunity to visit the forum to share with other teachers the articles you found.

Distribute: Article - Fortnite Stealing Dance Moves - Article.

Teaching Tip

To Print or Not To Print? This lesson is written assuming that you have printed out the article and have it physically available for students to write on, even though it is also possible to have students interact with this text digitally. If students read the article digitally, it is most important that they still follow the active reading strategies outlined in this lesson - highlighting the text, writing in the margins, and summarizing. This may require some additional time & instruction to teach students your preferred tools of digital annotation, and may require some additional adjustments to some of the later annotation strategies in this lesson.

Do This: Students read the article. After they are finished reading they should mark up the text with the following:

  • Highlight / Underline: Any information in this article that you want to know more about
  • At The End: Write a 10-word summary of the article

Discussion Goal

Goal: This discussion continues to generate questions and spark student curiosity based on the article. Ultimately we will present students with a focused question to continue the lesson, but this lets students voice their ideas and concerns with the class. It can be helpful to keep these questions & concerns in mind as the lesson continues and return to them when you can.

Prompt: This article brings up issues around copyright. Based on what you’ve read and your own experiences, what questions do you have about copyright?

Display: Today’s central question: Are our current copyright policies helping society or hurting society?

The videos in this section are sourced from the Copyright & Creativity for Ethical Digital Citizens Curriculum. Credit to the Internet Education Foundation and iKeepSafe for these videos.


Before we can really discuss this question, we need some additional background information. We are going to watch three videos. Our goal is to better understand the rules of copyright, and to better understand when we can reuse or remix something.

Activity Part 3: Article Re-read (10 minutes)


Now that we better understand the rules & controls of copyright, we're going to re-read this article to see if we can determine if current copyright policies are helping or hurting society

Display the central question again: Are our current copyright policies helping society or hurting society?

Teaching Tip

Activity Repetition: This aspect of the lesson - reading an article and looking at these questions - is repeated in tomorrow’s lesson as well. Students are presented with a different set of articles to examine and must also identify benefits, harms, and impacts. Having them complete this same task today acts as a scaffold to prepare students to read an article with purpose. As you circulate and work with students, offer reading tips and strategies that will help them complete this similar task independently tomorrow.

Do This: Have students re-read the article in order to answer these questions:

  • What was digitized?
  • What was the goal or purpose of digitizing this thing?
  • Is someone benefiting from this situation? If so, who?
  • Is someone being harmed in this situation? If so, who?
  • Are these impacts intended or unintended? How do you know?

Students should continue to annotate the article by adding the following symbols:

  • Add a + next to sentences that show benefit
  • Add a - next to sentences that show harm
  • Add a face next to sentences that show impact

Prompt: Share some of the sentences you annotated. Did everyone identify the same areas?

Wrap Up (10 mins)


You need to take a stand on today’s question, using this article to help support your position. We will do this by creating a position poster so we can see how everyone feels about Copyright based on this article.

Teaching Tip

Creating the Artifact: This is another aspect of the lesson that will be repeated in tomorrow’s project - students will create an artifact that will be displayed for their peers to see, and this artifact must also include references to the text they read. Displaying the artifacts from today’s lesson acts as a model for what students will be expected to do independently in tomorrow’s lesson.

Do This:

  • Distribute paper to each student. Have students fold the paper in half.
  • In the top section, complete this sentence stem: “I think copyright can [help / hurt] society because __”
  • In the bottom section, provide a quote from the text that helps justify the sentence you wrote in the top

Circulate: Check in with students and encourage them to use one of their highlighted sentences as evidence for their opinion. As students finish, they hang them in a public space edge-to-edge like a quilt to form a larger tapestry of opinions about copyright with evidence. This class artifact can hang in the classroom as a reference for the next few lessons.


Today we learned about Creative Commons, a license that allows you to freely use materials created by others. There are a few other licenses that you may have heard about that also allow access:

  • Open Source: programs that are made freely available and may be redistributed and modified.
  • Open Access: online research output free of restrictions to access and use

You do have options when you want to ethically use others' materials! Because of these licenses, we have access to a wide variety of digital materials.

To close, when you use these materials, always make sure to cite where you found your sources. Citations come in many forms - it could be a link, or a description of where you found the source. There are formal versions of citations recommended by various organizations, but generally the most important thing to remember when citing a source is to provide as much information as possible about the materials you are using.

Assessment: Check For Understanding

Check For Understanding Question(s) and solutions can be found in each lesson on Code Studio. These questions can be used for an exit ticket.

Question: How is a Creative Commons license different from a regular copyright?

Question: Now that we understand Copyright, what would need to change in order for the scenario from the warm-up to be okay? As a reminder, here was the scenario from the warm-up:

Imagine you were using some of our pixelation tools to create an image and you posted it online for your friends to see - but, a week later you find out someone took that image and put it on a T-shirt that they’re selling for $10 each.

  • Check Your Understanding
  • 2
  • 3
  • (click tabs to see student view)
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Student Instructions

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Student Instructions

In 50 words or less, describe the concept of a number system.

Why are rules required for a number system to be useful?

Standards Alignment

View full course alignment

CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2017)

IC - Impacts of Computing
  • 3A-IC-28 - Explain the beneficial and harmful effects that intellectual property laws can have on innovation.


IOC-1 - While computing innovations are typically designed to achieve a specific purpose, they may have unintended consequences
IOC-1.F - Explain how the use of computing could raise legal and ethical concerns.
  • IOC-1.F.1 - Material created on a computer is the intellectual property of the creator or an organization.
  • IOC-1.F.2 - Ease of access and distribution of digitized information raises intellectual property concerns regarding ownership, value, and use.
  • IOC-1.F.3 - Measures should be taken to safeguard intellectual property.
  • IOC-1.F.4 - The use of material created by someone else without permission and presented as one’s own is plagiarism and may have legal consequences.
  • IOC-1.F.5 - Some examples of legal ways to use materials created by someone else include:●       Creative Commons—a public copyright license that enables the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. This is used when the content creator wants to give othe
  • IOC-1.F.6 - The use of material created by someone other than you should always be cited.
  • IOC-1.F.7 - Creative commons, open source, and open access have enabled broad access to digital information.