copyright infringement explained to kids

Copyright cartoon by: Jesper Wallerborg

I’m a British mum (mom) born in Europe, the birthplace of “copyright.” (Oh, ok, it was the French who invented moral rights—”do it moral”—so I am taking credit by association where it’s not strictly due. Which brings me onto copyright infringement!) How can it be explained to children? Here’s a mind-opening project to do when you have friends or visiting family around. It’s also a great activity to do with your child’s scout or youth group.


1 Take a group of all children, or children and adults of any age, and get them to author anything: a drawing, a poem, a tune, and snapchat photo, a tweet, or video, etc.

2 Collect their work, mix it up, and hand the pieces back to the wrong children.

3 Praise the various works, making sure the wrong children get the credit.

4 Ask the children how they feel about being given back the wrong work and for someone not getting credited for their own good work.

5 Next, pick a work, show it to the group and make sure everyone knows who really authored that work. Now give money to the wrong kid—i.e. a kid who had nothing to do with the making of that work. Make sure everyone knows that the rightful owner gets nothing.

6 Canvass the reaction of the group.

7 Next, ask one kid to adapt the work they were wrongly given, without asking the rightful author for permission and pass it off as their own original work without giving any credit to the original author.

8 Canvass the reaction of the group.

9 Next, take a vote. Of all the works that the class did, which one is the best?

10 Hold an open auction as to how much they think it is worth and how much they are willing to pay to be the proud owner of this unique item that is acknowledged to be “the best work.”

11 Take that work, make copies, and distribute them without the permission of the author. Now everyone has a copy for free. How much do they think that work is worth now? It is surely worth less, if not worthless.


Food for thought—in action!

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