Creativity in the Classroom – Middle/High School Approaches (Part 2)


For English Language Arts teachers

Secondary Lesson Module 1—How does one register copyright for a non-dramatic literary work?


  • Students will describe the process for copyright registration and describe how it protects a creative work


  • For each student, copy of form for copyrighting a non-dramatic literary work (Form TX), downloaded from
  • For teachers’ reference, copy of instructions for this form from the same web document. Note: Depending on the students’ level, the teacher may wish to give each student a copy of the instructions.

Previous Knowledge and Experiences

  • * Students have completed an original non-dramatic literary work (such as a poem, essay, or short story) and have included a copyright notice; for example, © 2004 by David Student


  1. Review with students the meaning of the copyright notice on their works. Remind students that copyright is secured automatically when the work is created. Note that including a copyright notice on the work, though not required, is important for protecting the work. Ask students what are the advantages of registering copyright with the US Copyright Office? (Students may have had some experience with this in classes in the arts or other subject areas.) Advantages include: (a) establishing a public record of the copyright claim; and (b) allowing the author to file a suit for any infringement of copyright on a registered work of US origin.
  2. Ask students whether they are familiar with the kinds of penalties US law provides for copyright infringements such as making illegal copies. Because of news stories about infringement, students may already be aware that US law provides for severe penalties, which may include hefty fines or imprisonment, or both.
  3. Discuss the ways in which US laws protect a copyrighted work, including the fact that copyright gives the copyright holder the exclusive right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, and perform or display the work publicly. Lead students to understand that these rights apply to copyright of any creative work, including not only non-dramatic literary works, but works in the performing arts, visual artworks, and sound recordings.
  4. Distribute copies of Form TX (for non-dramatic literary works). (Optional: Distribute two-page instructions for this form.) Explain that the form can be used to register copyright for either published or unpublished works. Also, explain that a similar process is used for registering works of the performing arts (using Form PA) and for visual artworks (using Form VA), and the same protection applies for such works (see step 3 above).
  5. Ask students whether they have ever considered registering, or have registered, copyright on any of their own works. Explain that, according to Circular 1, Copyright Basics (available from the US Copyright Office), “Minors may claim copyright, but state laws may regulate the business dealings involving copyrights owned by minors.”

Indicators of Success

  • Students describe the protection that copyright law offers to creators of not only non-dramatic literary works but other creative works as well
  • Students describe two ways to protect their rights for their creative works; that is, use of the copyright notice; and registering copyright with the US Copyright Office

Classroom Extension Guide students in completing Form TX (for non-dramatic literary works) for a work that they have created. Although the form is not complex, students will probably have questions about certain terms or items. Give particular attention, as needed, to explaining the following:

  • space 2a: “work made for hire” – explain that in certain circumstances, this applies to work that is prepared by an employee or that is ordered or commissioned. (For the students’ purposes, they would check “no”)
  • space 2a: “nature of authorship” – for example, entire text, coauthor of entire text, compilation and English translation
  • spaces 2b and 2c: these spaces are completed only if the particular work has more than one author
  • space 5: generally, the students would answer “yes,” unless they have created a compilation or a derivative work (such as a translation) of a preexisting work. (Remind students that they would need written permission from the copyright holder, and may be required to pay that party a fee, if they wish to base their work on preexisting material and publish or distribute their new creation)
  • spaces 6a and 6b: either of these spaces need to be completed only if the work is a compilation or a derivative work
  • space 7a: students would leave this blank, but remind them that if they were actually filing for copyright, along with the form they would send an application fee (currently $30) and a copy (or copies) of the work, as described in the instructions

Home Extension Have students show Form TX to parents or other family members, asking them whether they have ever used the form themselves or know anyone who has. Ask students to write a paragraph describing circumstances under which they might actually want to file for copyright themselves.

Secondary Lesson Module 2—What are the important copyright issues related to posting literary works such as “fanfics” on the Web?


  • Students will describe important issues related to posting “fanfics” or other such material on the Web


  • Optional: Computer display for showing students examples of selected fanfics sites on the web

Previous Knowledge and Experiences

  • Students have been writing letters to their favorite fiction authors as a creative writing assignment. Or, students have been studying the parodies


  1. Ask students if they have ever read or written “fanfics” on the Internet. Through their responses, elicit a “definition” of fanfics, such as the following: Fanfics, short for “fan fiction,” refers to written stories based on characters, themes, ideas, settings, etc., of a published work or series of works. They may be based, for example, on books, movies, TV shows, or cartoons. Usually, fans of the original author’s work write fanfics, which are often parodies, so that other fans can enjoy them. Review or explain the meaning of parody.
  2. [Optional] Using the computer display, show students examples of fanfics on a selected website.
  3. Lead students in a discussion of copyright issues related to fanfics. Ask whether they think a fanfics writer can own or copyright his or her own fanfics. Guide students in understanding that in writing fanfics, they are creating a derivative work (that is, a work that is based on a preexisting work). If students have already studied how copyright is registered, ask if anyone recalls what is involved in copyrighting a derivative work. They should respond that the creator can claim copyright only in the “new matter” in such a work; also, the creator of a derivative work must identify any preexisting work. Additionally, explain that creating a derivative work without permission of the original author is an infringement of copyright and may bring heavy penalties.
  4. Talk with students about the different kinds of fanfics sites that they have seen or used. Students probably will have noticed that some sites are authorized by the original authors or their publishers. If students are writing fanfics on a site that is not authorized in this way, ask if they have ever written a disclai
    mer at the top of their work. For example, the Web site suggests a disclaimer such as the following “I do not own in part or full any aspect of the Star Trek franchise. This is the property of Paramount, its relevant partners and subsidiaries. I do own all original aspects of this fan-fiction including but not limited to original characters and plot. This fan-fiction has been published at no profit, purely for the enjoyment of the fans and the collective good of the franchise.” Encourage students to use a similar disclaimer if they post fanfics themselves.
  5. Talk with students about ways in which they can be certain that it’s safe to post a fanfic without infringing on the author’s copyright. Explain that if they are not using a Web site sanctioned by the author or publisher of the original work, they should get permission to use the author’s characters, ideas, settings, etc, in their fanfics. Ask students how they might contact an author to request permission. Students will note that sometimes they can contact the author through an e-mail address listed on the publisher’s or author’s official Web site.
  6. Ask students why it is very important to review the guidelines and disclaimers for any site before posting on it. Students who have read such material may have noticed that by posting to some sites, they may, for example, be automatically granting the website owner all rights to the material that they post, including the right to distribute the material in any form, anywhere.

Indicators of Success

  • Students describe copyright considerations for writing and posting fanfics and other such material

Classroom or Home Extension Ask students to discuss with their parents what they have learned about fanfics. Assign students the task of writing a brief parody based on some of their favorite fiction. Give them the option of posting their parodies on a Website, with parental approval, being certain that they understand the guidelines for the Web site and have author/permission (implicit with some official Web sites), and use appropriate disclaimers, or both.

Part 3