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Copyright Guide: TEACH Act and Distance Ed

Guide to copyright issues for HIU faculty.


What is the TEACH Act?

A possible alternative to Fair Use, the Technology Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act extends to the digital classroom some of the exemptions to copyright law that exist in the face-to-face classroom. Its application is limited to performances and displays. Performances and displays include non-dramatic literary works (articles, book chapters and music) and audiovisual works that typically would be shown in the face-to-face classroom. This latter example can be very helpful in the distance ed classroom, but if it involves digitizing from other formats, there are additional requirements that must be met to comply with the law. If you determine that the TEACH Act does not apply, you can still fall back on Fair Use.

To take advantage of the TEACH Act, there are a number of technological requirements that must be met (see below).


What is the TEACH Act?
The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act) was signed into law in November of 2002. The Act revised an existing exemption in the Copyright Act to authorize, for digital distance education purposes, performances and displays of copyrighted works that are analogous to the kinds of performances or displays of such works that take place in a live classroom setting.

Although the Act expands the categories of works that can be reproduced for distance education, the Act includes several additional safeguards to prevent the unauthorized use of copyrighted materials, including: 1) requiring the performance or display of the work to be made by or at the direction of an instructor as an integral part of a class session; 2) requiring reception of the performance or display of the work be limited to students officially enrolled in the course for which it is made; 3) requiring transient copies to be retained only as long as reasonably necessary to complete the transmission; and 4) limiting performance of certain works to reasonable and limited portions.

Below is a checklist to assist you in determining whether or not you are ready to use the TEACH Act:

  • My institution is a nonprofit educational institution or a governmental agency.
  • It has a policy on the use of copyrighted materials.
  • It provides accurate information to faculty, students and staff about copyright.
  • Its systems will not interfere with technological controls within the materials I want to use.
  • The materials I want to use are specifically for students in my class.
  • Only those students will have access to the materials.
  • The materials will be provided at my direction during the relevant lesson.
  • The materials are directly related and of material assistance to my teaching content.
  • My class is part of the regular offerings of my institution.
  • I will include a notice that the materials are protected by copyright.
  • I will use technology that reasonably limits the students’ ability to retain or further distribute the materials.
  • I will make the materials available to the students only for a period of time that is relevant to the context of a class session.
  • I will store the materials on a secure server and transmit them only as permitted by this law.
  • I will not make any copies other than the one I need to make the transmission.
  • The materials are of the proper type and amount the law authorizes:
    • Entire performances of nondramatic literary and musical works.1
    • Reasonable and limited parts of dramatic literary, musical, or audiovisual works.2
    • Displays of other works, such as images, in amounts similar to typical displays in face-to-face teaching.3
  • The materials are not among those the law specifically excludes from its coverage:
    • Materials specifically marketed for classroom use for digital distance education.
    • Copies I know or should know are illegal.
    • Textbooks, coursepacks, electronic reserves, and similar materials typically purchased individually by the students for independent review outside the classroom or class session.
  • If I am using an analog original, I checked before digitizing it to be sure:
    • I copied only the amount that I am authorized to transmit.
    • There is no digital copy of the work available except with technological protections that prevent my using it for the class in the way the statute authorizes.

Checklist created by Georgia Harper, University of Texas System. Permission granted to include in pamphlet June 4, 2003.

1 Nondramatic works exclude audiovisual works but include works such as poetry, short story, and nondramatic musical works other than opera, music videos, and musicals.
2 Includes all audiovisual works such as films and videos of all types, and any dramatic musical works excluded above.
3 Includes still images of all kinds

National Association of College Stores. Q&A Concerning Copying Print and Digital Works (

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Steve Jung
Associate Professor
Hugh & Hazel Darling Library
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