Fair Use & Transformativity

1 Understanding Fair Use Through Concept Mapping

Leslie Worrell Christianson & Amanda Avery

Intended Audience: Upper-division undergraduate or graduate studio art students

Session Length: (2) 50-minute class sessions

Code Section: Making art

ACRL Frames: Information has value, Scholarship as conversation


Students will learn about transformative use and ethical appropriation of another artist’s work. At the start of class, a concept mapping activity will be presented. Students will break into two groups. One group will concept map the 1980 photograph Puppies by Art Rogers. The second group will concept map the 1988 sculpture String of Puppies by Jeff Koons. The class will discuss concepts derived from the concept mapping activity and the instructor will introduce how they relate to fair use. The instructor will use the remaining class time to discuss fair use in the visual arts and the ethical use of intellectual property. At the end of the first session, students will be asked to create a work utilizing appropriation and bring it to the next class. Students will present their art alongside the source work and the fellow students will concept map both pieces and discuss the results.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to explain the concept of transformative use as an underlying principle in the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts.
  • Students will be able to analyze a work of art in order to interpret its intent.
  • Students will be able to evaluate the transformativity of a work of appropriation art.


  • Appropriation Art Assignment Sheet (see appendix 1)

Lesson Plan

Class one of two

Activity 1: Introduce Concept Mapping (5 minutes)

Procedure: The instructor will define concept mapping in order to prepare for the activity. The lesson will detail how students can use concept mapping to graphically represent concepts and ideas and demonstrate relationships. It will encourage students to draw from their own knowledge of a topic and to ask questions during the process like who, what, where, when, why, and how. The instructor can provide examples or practice the activity with class participation.

Instructor Resources:

  • Harris, Charles M., and Shenghua Zha. “Concept Mapping for Critical Thinking: Efficacy, Timing, & Type.” Education 137, no. 3 (2017): 277-280.
  • Simper, Natalie, Richard Reeve, and J. R. Kirby. “Effects of concept mapping on creativity in photo stories.” Creativity Research Journal 28, no. 1 (2016): 46-51.
  • Morton, Mark. Concept Maps: How Instructors Can Use Them to Support Student Learning (High Definition) YouTube video, 27:47. Accessed August 8, 2017. https://youtu.be/Po-aj31WXsM

Activity 2: Concept Mapping Activity (10 minutes)

Procedure: Students are divided into two groups. One group is given an image of the 1980 photograph Puppies by Art Rogers and the second group is given an image of the 1988 sculpture String of Puppies by Jeff Koons. Each group is instructed to tape the images on the board, leaving enough space so students can use concept mapping to write ideas around the images.

Instructor can access images for classroom use at:

  • Ames, E. Kenly. “Beyond Rogers v. Koons: A Fair Use Standard for Appropriation.”
  • Columbia Law Review 93, no. 6 (1993): 1473-1526. (Both images.) Silverman, Ruth. Dog days: A Book of Days. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1989.
  • Koons, Jeff. “Artwork: String of Puppies.” Accessed August 8, 2017. http://www.jeffkoons.com/artwork/banality/string-puppies.

Activity 3: Review Concept Mapping Activity (10 minutes)

Procedure: The instructor will initiate a conversation about the results of the concept mapping activities and discuss similarities and differences between the two “mapped” images.

Did the students recognize Koons’s sculpture as a parody on Rogers’s work? If you only saw Koons’s work without seeing Rogers’s, would you know it was a parody? Do the concepts surrounding each image, as a whole, tell different messages? How does seeing the two works together change your interpretation of each? The instructor will discuss in greater depth the court case Rogers v. Koons 960 F.2d 301 (2d Cir. 1992) and the ruling.


Activity 4: Fair Use in the Visual Arts (20 minutes)

Procedure: The instructor will open a lecture on fair use referencing parody as one activity that is considered fair use and emphasize that parody is transformative because its intent is different from that of the original artwork. The other factors that are considered when determining fair use will be discussed with an emphasis on the issue of a work being transformative in concept regardless of how much or how little is taken from another artist. The instructor will also discuss how transformative use as a fair use defense has changed since the idea was introduced in the early 1990s and how the ruling in the Rogers v. Koons case might be different if it was litigated today. The CAA Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts will be introduced to the students as a guide for Appropriation Art within the discipline.

Instructor Resources:

Activity 5: Appropriation Art Homework Assignment (5 minutes)

Procedure: Distribute the homework assignment handout and briefly explain objectives

Resources Handout: appropriation art assignment (included in appendix)

Class two of two

Activity 1: Student Presentations of Appropriation Art (5 minutes)

Procedure: The instructor will model how to both present and defend an example work. Briefly review the steps involved in concept mapping. A review will allow the instructor to gauge student knowledge and provide direction and feedback for Activity 2.

Activity 2: Student Art Presentations (40 minutes)

Procedure: Students present their appropriation art work with the original piece by taping it to a wall or board. Individual students will write ideas on sticky notes or white board to concept map the presenting student’s work. The presenter will defend the transformative use of their work based on the previous discussions and examples of fair use and ethical appropriation.

Instructor Resources: White board or sticky notes for concept map

Activity 3: Wrap-up discussion, “exit ticket” survey (5 minutes)

Procedure: Distribute a short (3-question), culminating survey to students in the last 5 minutes of class which they will hand-in as their “exit ticket” to leave the session. This can be ungraded/anonymous, and will provide the instructor and/or co-teacher with general data on the class’s knowledge of transformative art best practices, as well as feedback on lesson effectiveness.

Resources: Wrap-up Survey (included in appendix)

Assessment: Instructors will measure student learning through formative assessment. After the lesson and discussion, the second concept mapping session of student work will allow the instructor to assess the success of the lesson based on student preparedness, work samples, and participation in the discussion. Through observation of the students’ artwork and class discussion, instructors can identify any gaps in student comprehension of transformative use, fair use, and ethical appropriation.


This lesson plan grew out of my work as the copyright librarian and liaison to the Art Department in collaboration with Amanda Avery, the Librarian for the Center for Transformational Teaching and Learning (CTTL). I have been addressing issues regarding copyright for the past five years during instruction across all disciplines. I have also published on the work being done by academic librarians to address copyright on campus.

Three years ago, I became the liaison to the art department and was asked to present to a graphic design class. The instructor was concerned with students’ excessive “borrowing” of others’ creative work and a lack of understanding of copyright law. Students also had a difficult time understanding how appropriation art did not violate copyright law and the exceptions made for “transformative use.” Over the course of the past three years, the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education was introduced and I adapted the sessions for the graphic design students to address frames rather than standards. The CAA Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts was also released during that time and became an important resource for the students on how to navigate fair use.

Although there are prescribed factors that are considered when determining fair use, what has made it an important component to the advancement of the arts and sciences is the role of critical thinking in determining lawful use of intellectual property. It also allows for changes in how creative work is made and how it impacts all segments of society. For something to be considered transformative it needs to possess a new aesthetic, expression, or meaning. In considering this, it became apparent that this lesson would be more impactful if taught through the lens of critical information literacy.

I approached Amanda to collaborate in developing the lesson plan to include active participation from the students in order for them to critically engage in the learning process. Amanda was recently appointed the liaison to the newly created department CTTL. One of the goals of CTTL is to “assist in the development, delivery, and continuous improvement of high quality learning experiences in all modalities; and build communities of practice that advance teaching and learning.” After a few discussions, the process of concept mapping came to the forefront as an activity during the lesson that would engage the visual learner in critical thinking. The students’ direct experience of the art and prior knowledge was an important part of participating in the lesson and would ultimately be integrated into new knowledge. The lesson also required that the students work collaboratively to make decisions based on the information provided, thus actively participating in the process of addressing ethical concerns surrounding the value of creative work. Although this lesson is designed for two 50-minute class sessions, it would still meet the learning objectives if the instructor was only able to present the first 50-minute session. The objectives of this lesson can be built upon with further exploration of these issues so the students can fully engage in their community of practice as professional artists.


Fair Use in the Visual Arts: Lesson Plans for Librarians Copyright © 2018 by Leslie Worrell Christianson & Amanda Avery. All Rights Reserved.

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