Intellectual Property

Students learn the last piece to becoming a Project Empathy editor: intellectual property. Using real world examples of music sharing and YouTube videos, among others, students get a crash course in what copyright means and why it exists.


What students will learn

  1. Basics of copyright, trademark, and patent as the foundations of intellectual property.
  2. How intellectual property rules apply to sharing the works of others and works created by the students.
  3. Introduction to alternate licensing regimes, specifically Creative Commons.

Lesson topics

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is an interesting and very important aspect of law. "Intellectual property" is just like physical property, like a car or house or clothing, in the sense that you own it, but it is different because it is not a physical things you can hold. While you can hold a CD, or drawings, or a book in your hands, you can't hold a song, idea, design, or a recipe in your hand. Think about that: when you buy a CD, you aren't buying the song itself, you are just buying a physical copy of it for you to use.

Every country has their own rules about intellectual property and as soon as you create something you are affected by intellectual property. Whenever you hear a song, watch a video, read a book, or even drink a soda, you are dealing with intellectual property. Rules about intellectual property are constantly being re-evaluated as digital content influences how we view creative work.

Here are the important bullet points students need to know for sending content with Project Empathy:

Every creative work is copyrighted by defaultThis is designed to protect creators (musicians, writers, etc.) in case they don't know about copyright law. If you are unsure about the copyright status of a work, know that it is copyrighted unless the artist chooses to change that status.

An creator must give permission for their content to be shared on Project Empathy. This is where Creative Commons licenses come in handy because the artist has already given their permission. However, we can also accept content from a creator who has given explicit permission for Project Empathy sharing. More on this later.

You must give credit to a creator for their work. We will show you how to properly do this for sharing content with Project Empathy. This is called "attribution" and even when it is not required, it is the polite thing to do.

I have linked to a Powerpoint I made for the GEMS class on Intellectual property that was well received by the students. There is also a good video by Creative Commons that gives a high level overview of copyright and its implications on sharing.


Intellectual Property PPT presentation by Thane Richard

Creative Commons and how to mark a creative work

Creative Commons offers amazing resources for understanding how to use their licenses. I recommend starting here and then having students select work that they have created in class to be marked with a Creative Commons license. They are gifting the work to the commons for others to use and remix. Going through that process themselves will help them empathize with other authors/creators, aiding in the attribution process when they send content from space.


If you have additional materials that you think would add to this curriculum, please write to me, This is a collaborative project and we hope that, through more participation, we can make it even better.