Plagiarism & Copyright Infringement

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The Basics




Grades 7th – 12th


Writing Standards 6-12.  Research to Build and Present Knowledge:  8.

Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.

Author: Rhonda L. Anderson (2013)

The Lesson


I am an English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) teacher.  Even though some of my students may have been in American        schools since kindergarten, their primary language is one other than English.  This often causes confusion when it comes to their reading comprehension and writing skills.  One of the most frustrating challenges for teachers is the issue of plagiarism.  Many students – in general – struggle with this concept.  So, is it surprising that ESL students find this issue confusing?  With this lesson, I hope to alleviate some of this confusion and to offer strategies to help my students navigate this potential quagmire.  In today’s world, I am hard-pressed to find a teenager without some type of electronic musical device attached to her/his ear, head, and/or neck.  As the old saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them!”  Therefore, I am using (mostly) currently popular music and performing artists as a means to capture my students’ attention and interest.


Students will develop the skills to navigate the pitfalls presented by plagiarizing, paraphrasing, and copyright infringement.




Copyright Criminals (2009), [i]DEPENDENTLENS, PBS Documentary

Gaines, Ann. Don’t Steal Copyrighted Stuff!: Avoiding Plagiarism and Illegal Internet

Downloading. (Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2008)



  • Handouts (H/O): 

    1 –“Star Spangled Banner” Comparison Sheet / Vocabulary List

    2 – Huey Lewis / Ray Parker, Jr. Controversy

    3 – Copyright Issues

  • Lyrics:               

    "Ghostbusters"      +   " I Want A New Drug"

    "All Too Well"        +    "I Saw"

    "Party O’Clock"     +    "On the Floor"

    "Star Spangled Banner"



Vocabulary Words: 






musical arrangement











#1 – What strikes you most about these songs? 

#2 – What makes the musical arrangements especially memorable?

#3 – In comparing the songs, what are two similarities and two differences that you have

        noticed about the songs? 

#4 – Is it important whether or not credit is given to the first person who composes a song or

         writes the lyrics?  Why or why not? 



Day 1: 

Distribute 2-sided Handout (H/O) #1 – Starter questions on one side; vocabulary list on the other side.

Using the ELMO – have students copy the definitions of the vocabulary words.  All of the words, except paraphrasing, plagiarism, mashup, copyright, and copyright infringement are on the list.  Spaces have been allotted for additional words.  (Some teachers may prefer to save time and have the definitions already printed on the H/O.  This would be too much of a distraction for some of my students.)  A discussion of the meaning of the words will accompany the copying. 

Students are expected to use the new vocabulary when discussing the songs.


Students will listen to three renditions of the “Star Spangled Banner.”  There isn’t any controversy about who wrote the music – John Stafford Smith (1775), or who wrote the lyrics – Francis Scott Key (1814).  The performing artists do not try to take credit for the tune or the lyrics.  They just put their own spin on the song.

1st:  American Choral Directors Association's Tim Sharp conducting combined US Military Choruses (Published on Jul 1, 2012)

2nd:  Whitney Houston, Super Bowl XXV (1991)

3rd:  Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock (1969)

Students close their eyes and listen to each song.  Then, on H/O #1, they write down the words/phrases and mental image(s) that they remember.  Plus, they are to try to remember the music/tune.

After each song, the students will fill in their comments about the song.  After the third song, the teacher will play the songs again, in their original order. Thus, allowing the students to add anything else that has caught their attention.

Teacher poses the first set of questions:  What strikes you most about each of these songs; why?  (Words, music, emotion, …)  What makes the musical arrangements especially memorable?  Is it okay to change the musical arrangement of our national anthem?  Why or why not?

The teacher plays the songs again, in their original order.

In groups of 3-4, students will discuss what they noticed about the songs.

If there is time, each group will present their findings to the rest of the class.  Otherwise, this is where we will start on the next day that the class meets. Handouts will be used as EXIT Tickets when students leave the room.

Day 2:  

Return H/O #1 to students.  If necessary, finish previous class’s discussion. 

Teacher poses these questions:  What do you call someone who takes something without permission?   What happens when a performing artist doesn’t give any credit to the original composer and/or lyricist?  Should anything happen?

Students will add the definitions of mashup, plagiarism, copyright, and copyright infringement to their H/O #1. 

Ray Parker, Jr. composed “Ghostbusters.” Or did he?  Huey Lewis (of the 80s band Huey Lewis and the News) says that Parker took his song "I Want A New Drug" and put new words to it, without giving him (Lewis) any credit.


Students will listen to "I Want A New Drug" and then “Ghostbusters,” (at least twice). 


"I Want A New Drug"**

Slim's (San Francisco, CA), 1989 [Published on Feb 28, 2013


** What drug is Huey talking about?  [Women]


Middle 80's Classic Ray Parker Jr. Great Song Vid [Uploaded on Jul 10, 2008]


Then, students will use H/O #2 to compare the two songs.  After a discussion of the handout, students will listen to a mashup of the two songs. [Uploaded on Jan 10, 2012]


A discussion of plagiarism and copyright infringement will ensue. 


Day 3:

Copyright Infringement?  In teams of two, students select two of the four pairs listed below [A or B  +  C or D].   Each team will perform an Internet search to examine the copyright infringement issues.  The teacher will distribute the A and B song lyrics, plus four copies of H/O #3 to each student.  Students will use these H/Os (and additional lined paper) to record information about each pair of songs.

A few websites which might be helpful are:



A   Taylor Swift:  All Too Well

“and I’ll forget about you long enough

to forget why I need to.”

Matt Nathanson:  I Saw                                         A

“and I forget about you long enough

to forget why I needed to.”

B   Jennifer Lopez:  On the Floor

“Cuz London to Ibiza / Straight to L.A.

New York / Vegas to Africa,”


Kat DeLuna:  Party O’Clock                                 B

“Party in Ibiza, Party in New York /

All the way to Africa / Love in the Caribbean /

On my way to Vegas.”

   Lady Gaga:  Born This Way

53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards

Madonna:  Express Yourself                                 C

Live VMA ‘89

D  Let’s Go

DJs Arty and Mat Zo:  Rebound                           D


Teacher poses these questions:  Now that you’ve compared the songs/lyrics, do you think legal action was merited?   Is it important whether or not credit is given to the first person who composes a song or writes the lyrics?  Why or why not? 

Homework:  Students will review the notes that they have taken on the H/Os.  Emphasis is given to the fact that the information will be used in an activity during the next class period.


Day 4:


Students will take a pop-quiz on the vocabulary and songs we have just studied.  HOWEVER, this is actually a faux-quiz.  It is part of an exercise/experiment to help underscore how damaging plagiarism can be. 

1st  – Students take the faux-quiz.

2nd – Students pass their quiz to the person on their left.

3rd – Each student grades the paper in front of her/him.

The quizzes will be graded as a group.          

4th – Students will, again, pass the graded quizzes to their left.

5th – Students will be told that they will receive the grade of whatever quiz is in front of them, at that moment! 

6thTeacher will wait for the cries of jubilation and dismay to subside.

The class will begin to dissect the plagiarism and copyright issues.

High School Plagiarism Lessons:


Day 5, 6, 7, or …


This is not a race.  This is a skill that students will need throughout their lifetimes. Students will read 5~10 short paragraphs. They must determine which of the paragraphs have plagiarism and/or copyright issues.


Students will be evaluated on:

  • Class participation
  • Quality of work on the Handouts (H/O)
  • Exam


Originally, I planned to prepare a poetry lesson on elegies.  I would have started with the song “The Vacant Chair.”  Then, during the third week, I had an epiphany!  What my students really needed was a lesson on plagiarism.  So, I changed my project’s focus.  With plagiarism and copyrighting, we always seem to be walking on a greased tightrope -  blindfolded!  I know that I cannot guarantee that my students will always recognize when they engage in plagiarism, but at least I can help them develop the skills that will help them recognize and avoid it.  This lesson is a work in progress – it has opened my eyes to my own transgressions in this area.  I’m pretty sure that these are my own words and that I can take full credit for them! J




NAME:  ____________________________________      DATE:  ____________________

“Star Spangled Banner”


#1 Military Choruses

#2 Whitney Houston

#3 Jimi Hendrix

What strikes you most about these songs? 










What makes the musical arrangements especially memorable?









What mental image(s) do you get, as you

listen to each song?










NAME:  _________________________________                                      DATE:  ________________



musical arrangement / ______________________________________________

lyrics / ____________________________________________________________

tempo / ___________________________________________________________

rhythm / __________________________________________________________

melody / ___________________________________________________________

harmony (choral structure) / _________________________________________


pitch / _______________________________________________________________________ 


tone / _____________________________________________________________

mashup / __________________________________________________________


____________ / _____________________________________________________


____________ / _____________________________________________________


____________ / _____________________________________________________


____________ / _____________________________________________________





NAME:  _________________________________                                      DATE:  ________________



musical arrangement / an adaption of a composition/song

lyrics / song text

tempo / the speed at which music is performed

pitch / the highness or lowness of a tone, as determined by the number of vibrations in the sound

tone / mood

rhythm / the patterns of time and beats in music.

melody / the tune of a piece of music

mashup / a recording that combines vocal and instrumental tracks from two or more recordings

harmony (choral structure) / when two or more pitches are sounded at the same time

paraphrasing / putting someone else’s ideas into your own words. You must always cite the source.

plagiarism / the act of stealing ideas, language and information and passing them off as one’s own.             

copyright / the legal right to be the only one to reproduce, publish, and sell a book, musical recording, etc., for a certain period of time

copyright infringement / a violation of an individual or organization's copyright. It describes the unauthorized use of copyrighted material, such as text, photos, videos, music, software, and other original content






NAME:  _________________________________                                      DATE:  ________________


In 1981, Huey Lewis (Hugh Cregg) accused Ray Parker, Jr. of copyright infringement after Parker released his single, “Ghostbusters.” After more than 10 years of arguing, the two artists settled their case in private. Parker never publicly admitted his guilt but he did agree to pay an undisclosed amount to Lewis for “damages.”  The issue was brought up again during the spring of 2001. Lewis had taped a VH-1 Behind the Music segment and disclosed details of the 1995 settlement. Parker filed a lawsuit against Lewis in March 2001. Parker claims Lewis broke the “confidentiality agreement.” Apparently part of the original settlement banned them both from revealing any information that was not in a press release they jointly issued at that time. Parker is asking for an unspecified amount of money to compensate him for “punitive” damages and to cover his lawyer’s fees. No matter the outcome….”who ya gonna call?”  You be the judge!


5=Exactly the same  /   4=Very Similar /  3=Somewhat alike   /  2=Barely the same  /  1=Not alike in any way

Melody: _______________________________

Harmony: _____________________________

Rhythm: ______________________________

Tempo: _______________________________

Lyrics: ________________________________

Instruments: ___________________________

~  How are the two songs similar?  ________________________________________________



~  How are the two songs different?  ______________________________________________



~  Based on the rating system above, do you think Ray Parker, Jr. has broken the copyright

    laws? Be specific. ____________________________________________________________




Copyright Lesson Plan by Laura Kaemming  (œ2001, LKVTSSP)




NAME:  _________________________________                                      DATE:  ________________


Song: ______________________________________________________________________


What is the copyright issue?  ____________________________________________



Composer? ________________________________________________________________ 


Lyricist?  __________________________________________________________________



**WEBSITES used to research this issue?

#1 ________________________________________________________


#3 ________________________________________________________

#4 ________________________________________________________


What was the final legal outcome?  ____________________________







**You may read Wikipedia – for ideas – however,

you may NOT list it as a source.




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