Creativity in the Classroom – Middle/High School Approaches (Part 4)

For Civics and Government Teachers

Secondary Lesson Module 1—What are the various concepts of property? Why should users pay?


  • Students will describe the concept of ownership in relation to creative works, and will evaluate, and then take and defend a position on why users should pay for use of creative works


  • Handout with an excerpt of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, of the US Constitution: “The Congress shall have the power. . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries. . .”
  • Handout with Summary (pages 3-5) of the report “Copyright Industries and the U.S. Economy: The 2002 Report” (available on the web at (Note: Although this report is protected by copyright, the report’s copyright page states that it may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes or quoted with appropriate attribution to Stephen E. Siwek of Economists Incorporated and the International Intellectual Property Alliance)


  • Students have been identifying and discussing various economic rights guaranteed by the US Constitution


  1. Distribute the handout with an excerpt of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, of the US Constitution (see Materials). Explain that this is sometimes referred to as the copyright clause, or the patent clause, by the legal profession.
  2. Discuss with students the meaning of this clause and how the right of ownership to creative works fosters creativity and the distribution of artistic works. Explain that copyright protects a creator’s work, enabling the artist to earn income from the work, either by selling it directly or assigning or licensing rights to others.
  3. Ask students how owning a copy of a piece of music, a book, or other creative work differs from owning the copyright on it. Explain that ownership of a copy of the work does not give the owner any of the creator’s rights, which include being able to do, or authorize others to do, any of the following: reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies or phonorecords, or perform or display the work publicly.
  4. Distribute the “Executive Summary” handout (see Materials). Draw students’ attention to and discuss with them Chart 1 (about the copyright industries’ contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); Charts 3 and 4 (about employment growth in these industries); and Chart 6 (about foreign sales/exports for copyright and other selected industries).

Indicators of Success

  • Students describe the importance of the economic right of ownership (copyright) of creative works
  • Students describe the difference in rights for the copyright on a creative work and those for owners of a copy of the work
  • Students evaluate, take, and defend a position on whether should pay for authorization to use creative works

Home extension Have students discuss with their parents who is affected by illegal use of copyrighted material. They should discuss how infringements could lower the income for songwriters, publishers, musicians, studio managers, sound engineers, record store clerks, truck drivers, and many other workers involved in the production and distribution of music – not to mention works created in other art forms. Ask them to discuss how many individuals their family members may work with who might have their incomes directly affected by piracy of intellectual property.

Secondary Lesson Module 2—What kinds of court cases relate to copyright? How is copyright law enforced?


  • Students will describe how copyright law is enforced and develop a moot court activity to prosecute a case of illegal file sharing.


Previous Knowledge and Experiences

  • Students have been studying uses and abuses of copyrighted material (including the issue of file sharing), as well as the role of the courts in settling property claims.


  1. Discuss with students ways in which adherence to copyright law is monitored or enforced, such as the following:
    1. contest rules that require that a copy of the student’s music be provided to the judges;
    2. requirements for users of some software to be licensed
    3. disciplinary actions taken by universities against students who violate copyright on sites for which the university acts as the Internet service provider
    4. monitoring of file sharing services by entities such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to identify computers that illegally share specific files
  2. Explain that if the infringing user can be identified (which can be difficult with electronic media) and successfully prosecuted, the law provides for severe penalties for copyright infringement, including fines or imprisonment, or both Ask students to describe any cases of copyright infringement of which they are aware.
  3. Ask for student volunteers to serve in various roles in a moot court session to resolve a copyright issue related to file sharing. Roles may include attorneys for each side, a defendant and the party claiming damages, a judge, a court reporter, and witnesses (including, perhaps, expert witnesses). The rest of the class will serve as the jury.
  4. Assign students a specific scenario for the case that they will try in moot court, distributing a “brief” of the case to them. For example, the case might involve a recording company accusing an individual or organization of illegal file sharing. (See Materials.)
  5. Have students work in small groups to help the “prosecuting attorney” and the “defense attorney” prepare their arguments. Alternatively, depending on the grade level of the students, have students brainstorm as a class to discuss arguments for each side of the case.

Indicators of Success

  • Students describe various ways in which copyright law is enforced
  • Students identify the issues related to a moot-court case, such as file sharing, as they develop arguments for the case

Classroom Extension

  • In another class session, have students present the moot court case to the “jury.” Have the jury decide the case and describe the reason for its decision.
  • Investigate with students the parallels between United States law and other laws, for example those of the European Union, regarding copyright. (Information on relevant international treaties such as the Berne Convention is available on the U.S. Copyright office web site.)

Home Extension Have students discuss the moot court case with their parents, asking their parents whether they would have decided the case as the student jury did.

Part 5