There's a lot of misinformation out there about legal rights and responsibilities in the digital era.

This is especially disconcerting when it comes to information being shared with youth. Kids and teens are bombarded with messages from a myriad of sources that using new technology is high-risk behavior. Downloading music is compared to stealing a bicycle — even though many downloads are lawful. Making videos using short clips from other sources is treated as probably illegal — even though many such videos are also lawful.

This misinformation is harmful, because it discourages kids and teens from following their natural inclination to be innovative and inquisitive. The innovators, artists and voters of tomorrow need to know that copyright law restricts many activities but also permits many others. And they need to know the positive steps they can take to protect themselves in the digital sphere. In short, youth don't need more intimidation — what they need is solid, accurate information.

EFF's Teaching Copyright curriculum was created to help teachers present the laws surrounding digital rights in a balanced way.

Teaching Copyright provides lessons and ideas for opening your classroom up to discussion, letting your students express their ideas and concerns, and then guiding your students toward an understanding of the boundaries of copyright law.

In five distinct lessons, students are challenged to:

  • Reflect on what they already know about copyright law.
  • See the connection between the history of innovation and the history of copyright law.
  • Learn about fair use, free speech, and the public domain and how those concepts relate to using materials created by others.
  • Experience various stakeholders' interests and master the principles of fair use through a mock trial.

Teaching Copyright will require your students to think about their role in the online world and provide them with the legal framework they need to make informed choices about their online behavior.