intellectual property rights for education

Make Intellectual Property Rights Management Simple for Kids

Intellectual property rights are the legal rights an inventor or creator has over their own creations for a period of time. The work might be a book, song, photo, or video. It protects the owner by restricting how others can use their content.

It is important that students understand intellectual property rights. Many school assignments require online content to complete the task. This might take the form of researched information, images, or sound clips. How resources are included can make the difference between stealing or not.

Components of Intellectual Property Rights Management

The DQ Institute includes Intellectual Property Rights Management as part of their framework for digital intelligence. They propose that for people to thrive in a digital world they must have “the ability to understand and manage intellectual property rights (e.g. copyrights, trademarks, and patents) when using and creating content and technology” (source: Table 19 DQ Global Standards Report).

The DQ framework, outlines the knowledge, skills, and attitudes for competently respecting intellectual property rights. Students must be able to:

  • understand legislation and rights around ownership and remixing of digital creations
  • distinguish between creative use and appropriation of others’ work
  • distinguish between digital creations that are free to legally download and those that require payment
  • utilize strategies for protecting their own and others’ digital creations through a variety of tools and legislation
  • track and manage changes in their own digital creations to protect assets from unauthorized use or alterations
  • build trust, exhibit responsibility, and demonstrate respect by crediting others’ creations when appropriate

NOTE: This list is paraphrased. For exact wording refer to Table 19 in the DQ Global Standards Report.

Terms Related to Intellectual Property Rights Kids Need to Know

The DQ Institute outlines several terms related to intellectual property rights that students should know:

Digital Rights Management

DRM is the use of technology to protect the copyright of digital media assets and files. Permissions can prevent or limit whether a person can view, edit, share, save, copy, or print content. Restrictions may also include an expiration date or device limit. Students must understand that they should not circumvent protections put onto software or other files. If they do, it can put themselves and their school organization at risk for penalties.


Plagiarism is taking someone else’s work or idea and presenting it as one’s own. This is stealing. Students must understand the importance of rephrasing information into their own words. They also must know how to credit sources. To avoid the possibility of plagiarism, design learning opportunities that require synthesis of information to produce something original. For example, the task might be a poster, infographic, or timeline. It is advisable to include a submission of sources as part of the assignment. Not only will this demonstrate the credibility of student work, but it will also reinforce the need to cite sources of information.


Copyright is the legal right of the original creator to prohibit copying of their creative content without permission. This can include a photo, clip art image, sound effect, soundtrack, video, or website. The copyright right symbol © shows the content is protected. However, even without the symbol, the person who created the work owns the rights to it. Students need to understand that if they did not make the material, then it belongs to someone else. Sometimes a copyright holder will permit their work to be used by others. This often requires a link to the original content. Emphasize the need to verify if or how the content can be included in student work.

Fair Use

Fair use is permission to use copyrighted work without permission if it is “fair”. To be “fair” the person should not steal or try to take advantage of the creator’s efforts. In most cases, content can be used for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, or research. Fair use is easy to misinterpret. It is important to note that even if information or media is for educational purposes there is still a need to respect copyright. Always have students cite their sources, paraphrase text, reference direct quotes, and give credit to media creators.


Licensing is an agreement between the copyright holder and an authorized user that states terms of use. A person often pays a fee to access or download the content, and then can manipulate it to produce new work. The original creator retains ownership rights over their content. To support learning, many schools subscribe to services that license access to high-quality information and media. If using other online sources, students must determine if the content is freely shared or requires payment. At no time should they use technology to steal the work to avoid having to pay. To promote ethical behavior, provide a list of royalty-free sites that share media. Encourage students to read the terms of use, so that they understand there are rules to follow even if the content is free.


A trademark is a recognizable word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies a company, product, or brand. The trademark distinguishes it from others. Symbols show the type of trademark. TM is for goods, such as clothing, cosmetics, or beverages. SM is for services such as a law firm or ad agency. Trademark symbols can be difficult to notice because they appear in superscript™ ℠. A person, business, or organization can register a trademark in their country to give them exclusive use. This type of trademark uses a circled R as the symbol ®. A registered trademark is a way for students to identify a source as legitimate.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons are licensing agreements that permit sharing and reusing content. This includes music, photographs, and information. All Creative Common licenses (CC) require giving the user credit for their original work. In addition, there can be other restrictions. Some licenses prohibit commercial use, limit sharing, or require adaptations to be under the identical terms. Material that is licensed as CC is an excellent resource for students. Teach them how to filter Internet search results by Usage Rights to locate Creative Common licensed content. Encourage students to follow the permissions outlined by the creator for acceptable use. Also, explain to students if they use CCO in their search term, they will locate material that is freely shared and has no copyright.

TechnoKids Supports Teaching Intellectual Property Rights

TechnoKids has many technology projects that introduce intellectual property rights and align to the DQ Global Standards. These include TechnoBiography that teaches the importance of citing references, TechnoRace that emphasizes the need credit the source of an image or sound clip, or TechnoEarth that practices paraphrasing techniques.

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