5. First Amendment Rights + Intellectual Property Law

Overview This section contains resources focusing on the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press, including the application of the First Amendment to school newspapers and social media, and resources focusing on intellectual property law, including copyright and patent law. 

The principles inherent in the guarantee of a free press, first developed in the context of traditional print media, are now being examined anew due to technological advances, particularly the internet.  The guarantee of press freedom generally prohibits governmental interference with every type of publication that affords a vehicle of information and opinion. 

Many of the resources listed below explore the inherent tension between a free press and certain compelling governmental interests such as national security and the investigation of crime. Students will be especially interested in the materials exploring the tension between students’ rights of expression and the educational mission of the schools to educate the students.

Other resources focus on intellectual property law, which protects commercially valuable creations of the human intellect. Examples include fiber optics, computer hardware, medications, advertising logos, books, musical works, and movies.  Certain of the resources address the challenges prompted by technological advances. (See, for example, Google’s YouTube copyright tutorial.)

Protection of intellectual property is provided primarily by patent, trademark, and copyright law. The laws provide an economic incentive to create useful works by giving the creators the exclusive right to control their works for a limited period of time. The laws benefit the public by promoting the progress of science and useful arts. 

Intellectual property protection can conflict with society’s interest in the free flow of ideas and information, an interest protected by the First Amendment. This conflict gave rise to the “fair use doctrine,” which permits the use of a copyrighted work for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. For example, a student writing a paper about an author may quote from the author’s works. 

Learning Objectives |  Students will be able to: 
  • Define freedom of the press and articulate its importance in our democracy.
  • Understand ways in which press freedom affects their lives. 
  • Understand that there are limitations on freedom of the press and the policy reasons behind them.
  • Define intellectual property, give examples of intellectual property, and list types of laws designed to protect intellectual property.
  • Understand the purpose of intellectual property protection. 
  • Understand the practical applications of copyright law, for example, as applied to music distribution or YouTube videos.

Summary of Resources Below is the list of resources gathered in this section.  Click on the titles to learn more. 

Resources | First Amendment/Free Press
  1. 45 Words 
    • This video and related lesson plan can be used to teach high school and college students about the origins of the First Amendment and the drafting of the Bill of Rights. Actor Martin Sheen narrates the story of the challenges to the First Amendment in the decades that followed the founding of the nation.
    • Video & lesson Plan from the Newseum
    • Age: H, A
  2. Freedom of the Press & School Newspapers 
    • This case study-based lesson plan summarizes the arguments, reasoning and decision of the the Supreme Court in the pivotal 1988 Hazelwood decision, a case concerning whether a principal had the right to prohibit the publishing of articles in a school newspaper. 
    • Lesson Plan from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts 
    • Age: H, A
  3. Pillars of the First Amendment 
    • This lesson plan is appropriate for high school students and above, is a collection of First Amendment cases.  Each case provides an example "of the six pillars of the First Amendment considered the foundation of the Constitution. Each freedom - religion [prohibition of establishment and protection of free exercise], speech, press, assembly, and petition - is illustrated by a high-profile case that has an impact on today's teens."  
    • Lesson plan from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
    • Age: (M), H, A
  4. Social Media & Student Speech 
    • This program combines the vampire craze and social media to give high school students the opportunity to wrestle with a current issue by participating in either an Oxford-style debate or a trial and jury deliberations.  The program outline applies the precedent set in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, the school newspaper censorship case, to a fictional case.
    • Lesson plan from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
    • Age: H (A)
Resources |  Intellectual Property
  1. Dialogue on Law in the 21st Century   
    • This resource can be used by judges to present a hypothetical Intellectual Property case involving music distribution and copyright to middle and high school students.  The subject of the case — music and illegal downloads — would be of interest to the target audience.
    • Lesson plan and resources from the American Bar Association 
    • Age: M, H
  2. Educating about Intellectual Property
    • This website will be helpful for presenters looking for a range of materials to mine for presentations about IP.  The site aggregates links to video webcasts with introductions to IP and fair use, and offers PowerPoint case studies of patents and copyright law, as well as studies and polls.  The quality of the materials included is generally high, but there is so much information, that the site may be somewhat overwhelming.   
    • From Street Law Inc. and Constitutional Rights Foundation
    • Age: M, H
  3. Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright 
    • These four animated videos, through colorful characters and music, are a great resource for teaching older primary and middle school students about copyright.  In each video a team of cartoon students solves the "mystery" of what copyright is and how it affects them. 
    • Videos from the Library of Congress
    • Age: P, M 
  4. United States Patent and Trademark Office's 'Kids' Pages' 
    • This site gathers together informative interactive games and activities valuable for engaging students in grades K-6 and 6-12 — although the activities are most appropriate for late primary and middle school students.
    • Games and Activities from the USPTO
    • Age: P, M (H)