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Teaching our students about copyright law and fair use is not something we probably enjoy spending time on but it is, nonetheless something we need to do. Here are a few useful resources for teaching music students about the concept of copyright and how it applies to the use of musical compositions both in the classroom and at home.


Answering The What Ifs of Copyright In The Classroom

One of the main difficulties with teaching about copyright in the classroom is the never ending stream of "what if" questions that students and teachers both have about the law, its application in the school environment, and the definition of fair use. For a simple, point and click answer to almost a dozen of the most common questions in a way even younger students can understand take a look at the Interactive Online Copyright Education Tools page. Just mouse over the students and click on a question to get a real world answer.

Interactive Online Copyright Education Tools:

Delving Into Fair Use and Classroom Use With Older Music Students

For those wanting to get a bit deeper into the topic of copyright to use with older students there are many scholarly articles and summaries regarding copyright and fair use in the classroom. The most useful of which cover the most pressing copyright issues in easy to understand English. Of these the US Copyright office's PDF on the topic of the Reproduction of
Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians
 is perhaps the most appropriate place to start. Also in this arena however is a page by the University of Minnesota that delineates the Exceptions and Limitations of Classroom Use, Fair Use, and More. While for a more music education centric focus to this topic you might also consider taking a look at the Teacher's Guide To Music Media and Copyright Law by James Frankel.

Free Lesson Plans For Teaching About Copyright In The Classroom

JW Pepper recently produced a new website named that has on it many useful classroom tools, lesson plans, and ideas for talking about and teaching kids about these laws. They also have a nice animated video that you can use as a part of a unit on the topic. The video is geared more towards younger students but gets the point across:

For older kids you can go over to PBS and take a look at their video series and lesson plans titled Copyright Criminals.  The four videos in the lesson run about 20 minutes total and include handouts as well as a teacher and discussion guide.

Another interesting but much more lengthy unit plan is available through the Teaching Copyright website. The site is solely dedicated to this copyright education unit and has received some valid praise. The entire unit takes about five hours if you use all of it and culminates with a trial by jury in a fictional case titled Disney Studios vs. Faden where students debate and settle the decision of whether Fadens use of Disney movie clips was fair use or copyright infringement. 


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