Welcome to the Information Age.

The “digital natives” of today are on the threshold of a new world of creativity that thrives on the synergy between expression and technology. Smart phones, tablets, blogs, remixes, and mashups have become second nature to this generation, and the human urge to create and inspire is finding new outlets in these tools and mediums. How do we enable this generation to produce art in a modern context with moderns tools, while not running afoul of increasingly complex copyright law? How do we avoid the creative chill that fear of copyright infringement casts on young creators and innovators? By giving the next generation a proper understanding of their “Creative Rights”.

The “Creative Rights” umbrella encompasses not only the “copy rights” that enable creators to benefit from their creations economically, but also constitutionally guaranteed expression and speech rights that legally protect creative expression. These two categories of rights have a complex relationship: They are often complimentary, but are sometimes in tension. This tension can create legal difficulty that has a tendency to “chill” creative expression, especially when faced with the challenges that digital creativity and the Internet pose to traditional copyright law. However, a functional knowledge of intellectual property, and a knowledge of legal rights and responsibilities, we can ward-off this chill, fostering and enabling creativity.

The Creative Rights project, run out of the Brooklyn Law Incubator Policy (BLIP) clinic, will offer accurate, neutral, law-professor-approved, copyright education curriculum that will help students participate in online-culture effectively and legally. The Project is generating a curriculum that provides a functional understanding of the basics of copyright law in a the context of the Information Age. The lessons teach the vocabulary of copyright, a brief history of U.S. copyright law, the theoretical foundations of intellectual property, copyright’s tension with First Amendment free speech values, Fair Use exceptions, the public domain, the Creative Commons licensing scheme (with a focus on remix culture and mashups), and a forward-looking nod toward the future of copyright law. Through comprehension and interaction with grade appropriate materials, the digital natives will ultimately obtain a solid grasp on their legal rights and have the courage to innovate in ways that we can only imagine. With a solid understanding of how intellectual property works within the 21st Century, students of today can be confident in the creativity they will produce for tomorrow.

The project is cognizant of in the Common-Core media literacy standards, and will help students not only avoid plagiarism, but develop skills and perspective that support creative analysis, reflection, and research. The project’s initial focus is on teaching copyright to arts-focused high schools, but aims to expand to provide appropriate lessons for other contexts.

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