Partner Spotlight: Copyright and Creativity for Ethical Digital Citizens

When did your organization launch and why?

Understanding the basic ground rules around creative work has become an essential element of digital literacy. Copyright and Creativity for Ethical Digital Citizens (C&C for short) provides free education resources for teaching about copyright and fair use, to help students become responsible and ethical creators and consumers of media online.

Students may not realize it, but copyright and fair use are relevant to online activities they engage in virtually every day as both consumers and creators. At school, they use, create, and share copyrighted works when they study everything from art and music to English and history. They produce multimedia presentations in connection with project-based learning, and they learn computer skills like video editing and software coding. At home, they use technology to find and create blogs, music, art, and videos, and engage on social networks to share it all with a potentially vast audience.

But when is it okay to reuse or share some or all of someone else’s work? How should students expect others to treat their work? Too often, students have limited or skewed information about these topics, and teachers may be uncertain about important elements as well. C&C set out to provide teachers with accurate, balanced, and easy-to-use lessons so that they can confidently teach their students the basics of copyright and fair use.

C&C has its roots in a set of K-12 education resources initially developed by the Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe) between 2014 and 2016. In 2017, after iKeepSafe transferred its copyright education effort to the nonprofit Internet Education Foundation (IEF), C&C was established as a project under IEF. In 2018, C&C relaunched with a new and updated website and materials.

What does your organization do? What are its main goals? Main projects?

C&C offers a full suite of free resources including K-12 lesson plans, lesson slides (currently in production), instructional videos, visual aids, and a professional development course for teachers.  

The goal is to provide accessible and practical information about copyright — its protections, its limitations, and its role in encouraging creativity. Topics covered include:

  • The basics of what copyright protects and why
  • How copyright applies to students’ own creations
  • How to access and share creative works legally and ethically
  • How students can re-use others’ creative works in their own creations, through fair use, Creative Commons, and the public domain

What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your organization?

C&C aims to paint a balanced picture of the basic framework of copyright in the United States. It’s not a law school class focused on tricky edge cases and controversial flashpoints, and it doesn’t take sides in the ongoing heated debates about copyright policy. To avoid a slant in any particular direction, lessons were developed with input from constituents on all sides of the issue, from people in the copyright industry to academics with a consumer or user-oriented focus.

From the beginning, we wanted  to avoid teaching copyright as just a set of negative rules that restrict kids’ creative freedom — a list of finger-wagging “thou-shalt-nots.” Instead, C&C seeks to highlight not just what copyright prohibits, but also useful and positive information what it allows, and how students can successfully navigate and rely on copyright in their own roles as creators.

What are recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members?

C&C’s resources can all be accessed for free at There are individual pages for high schoolmiddle schoolelementary schoolindependent learning videos, and professional development. We are in the process of adding a ready-to-go slide deck for each lesson, aimed at maximizing ease-of-use for teachers.

C&C videos are also available on YouTube.  In particular, there are introductory videos explaining why copyright education matters and providing an overview of copyright’s history and basics:

Creators and Consumers of Media Online: Preparing Students for Life and Work

What’s Up with Copyright Anyway?—A Brief (Very Brief!) History and Copyright Basics

What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?

A basic understanding of copyright and fair use are explicit requirements of most MIL standards today (ISTE, AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner, California Model School Library Standards). Like media literacy education generally, C&C’s lessons aim to give students tools that can help them use modern digital technology appropriately, responsibly and effectively. C&C does this within the specific subject area of copyright and fair use. So the resources C&C is offering fit in well as one component or unit of an overall program on media literacy.

It’s also worth noting that media literacy and copyright both put a focus on questions of authorship. Students need to recognize that media doesn’t just appear online — someone authored it and posted it.  So students need to consider things like an author’s purpose, viewpoint, and rights under copyright.

Finally, the topics C&C teaches require students to develop and use critical thinking skills. Copyright and fair use questions often don’t have formulaic or black-and-white answers.  As in many media literacy matters, students are going to need to apply their own judgment and analysis. The point of education in this area is to provide students with a framework for that analysis, so that they are asking the right questions. But a big part of what students learn is that when it comes to accessing and using media, they need to apply some critical thinking skills as they go along.

Why is media literacy important to your organization?

Children today grow up using and relying on digital technology and the Internet from day one. Having this powerful technology at their fingertips creates rich possibilities, but it also creates an immediate, practical need for education about how to navigate the new worlds technology has opened up.  Being engaged and successful digital citizens will require students to develop basic literacy with how to assess and interact with online media. The specific topic that C&C addresses is one part of that, but it belongs in a broader program of media literacy that should be widely taught in schools. In order to educate students to be good digital citizens, these topics should be included in educational programs around the country.

Anything else you want our readers to know about your organization, your mission, or your staff?

We encourage NAMLE members to connect with C&C!
TWITTER: @CopyrightCreate
FACEBOOK: @CopyrightCreate

The views and opinions expressed in the Organizational Spotlight blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAMLE or its members. The purpose of the Organizational Spotlight blog is to highlight our Organizational Partners and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.