Copyright, copyleft & plagiarism

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Students develop and demonstrate honesty and integrity and ethical behaviour in their use of ICTs.

  • Students understand what copyright is and know ways to find content that can be remixed.
  • Students use creative commons licences for their own work.
  • Students understand what plagiarism is and use note taking tools to develop their own understanding of a topic.
  • Students know how to reference and cite the content and information they reuse.

NetSafe Digital Citizenship Definition: uses and develops critical thinking skills in cyberspace


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Discuss with students that copying someone else’s text is just the same, and it’s called plagiarism. It is ok, however, to reuse and build on their ideas when we credit where they came from. Using techniques such as note taking, summarising and referencing makes this easier.

You should always credit the original creator when you reuse their work. This guide from Creative Commons Australia clearly outlines how to do that. Don’t forget to teach students about useful referencing tools, such as Zotero, that make referencing much easier to manage. Here's some help to apply Creative Commons licences to your own work.


This game reinforces the different licences and makes students think about how you can mix and match different licence types.


  • What is the purpose of copyright?
  • If we didn’t have copyright, would we still have creative work? Why or why not?
  • What’s the difference between plagiarism and ‘inspiration’?
  • What’s the difference between owning a song and owning a car?
  • Give your own definition of plagiarism.
  • Lawrence Lessig: Free Culture: An engrossing presentation from the founder of Creative Commons. He outlines some of the effects of current copyright legislation, and gives the political case for copyright reform. Good discussion starter.


Display these posters in your school, for the classroom and for the staffroom [1]

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Create a digital story from reusable content that the students have identified.  Show them some great places to look for content such as Google Advanced Search, DigitalNZ filters
and any specific tool that they would be interested in. (for example: Jamendo and CCMixter for music, Vimeo for video, Flickr for images) You could also show them Creative Commons search engines such as Let'sCC  or Creative Commons Search. Helen Baxter has created a series of columns to help students remix content.


Creative Commons Kiwi

A free content video streamed from Vimeo
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Avoid deletion: Upload a free format version of this video to the Commons
[Creative Commons Aotearoa ].

  • Lawrence Lessig Ted Talk: 20 min presentation from Lessig, arguing that the current copyright regime
    reverse the intent of the copyright clause of the US Constitution: i.e. it restricts, rather than
    encourages, creativity.
  • New York Magazine: Where Have I Read That Before?
  • Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture:  Chapter One, pages 20-30, discusses the story of Disney’s use of public domain material in the early 20th century to produce Mickey Mouse.
  • Everything is a Remix Kirby Ferguson speaks about the impact of remixing on creativity through a series of videos and presentations.

Creative Commons Policies

In most situations, the works produced by a teacher in a school (handouts, resources, lesson plans) are owned by their employer. Sadly this means that teachers who want to share their teaching and learning materials need to gain written permission from their employer before they can legally do this. Some schools make the process of sharing easier by adopting a Creative Commons Policy which makes all material produced by a teacher available under a CC-By licence. Examples of Creative Commons policies include:

Remixing Creative Commons Content

Copying is not theft

A free content video streamed from Vimeo
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Avoid deletion: Upload a free format version of this video to the Commons
[ ].

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Did you know

That it's not always illegal to take someone else's work from the internet, reuse it and sell it? Most creative works in the world are 'All Rights Reserved' but if a work is released under a Creative Commons licence, you will probably be able to reuse it. Unless you spot an 'NC' or 'Non-Commercial' in the licence, you will be allowed to make money from it, as long as you follow the other licence conditions. Some licences require you to re-license your works the same way ('SA'); others restrict derivative and remix works ('ND'). To learn more about the different kinds of Creative Commons licences, visit