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TEACH Act Explained

The TEACH (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act) Act of 2002 impacts online educators more directly than online students. It brings into closer alignment uses of copyrighted materials that are permitted in a face-to-face class with similar uses in an online course. Essentially, it allows educators to perform or display certain copyrighted works in an online environment, if certain requirements are met, as part of “mediated instructional activities” in the course. Because of the TEACH Act, an online educator can incorporate film clips into a film studies course, or sound bytes into a music appreciation course. Institutions that have chosen to comply with the TEACH Act must, as a requirement of the Act, provide educational materials about copyright to their community and promote copyright compliance. Students in the course must be notified that the materials may be subject to copyright protection, that they cannot save materials to their computers, that they may not revise the materials in any way, and that they may not copy or distribute the materials.  

Source: Copyright Concerns in Online Education: What Students Need to Know. Jackie AlSaffar, Journal of Library Administration; 2006, Vol. 45


Key Takeaways:

  • Not all copyrighted works can be used in full under the TEACH Act.
  • Fair use is still an important means for lawful use of works in distance learning.
  • See checklist for complying with the TEACH Act.

Requirements of the TEACH Act

In exchange for unprecedented access to copyright-protected material for distance education, TEACH requires that the academic institution meet specific requirements for copyright compliance and education.

In order for the use of copyrighted materials in distance education to qualify for the TEACH exemptions, the following criteria must be met:

  • The institution must be an accredited, non-profit educational institution.
  • The use must be part of mediated instructional activities.
  • The use must be limited to a specific number of students enrolled in a specific class.
  • The use must either be for 'live' or asynchronous class sessions.
  • The use must not include the transmission of textbook materials, materials "typically purchased or acquired by students," or works developed specifically for online uses. Only "reasonable and limited portions," such as might be performed or displayed during a typical live classroom session, may be used.
  • The institution must have developed and publicized its copyright policies, specifically informing students that course content may be covered by copyright, and include a notice of copyright on the online materials.
  • The institution must implement some technological measures to ensure compliance with these policies, beyond merely assigning a password. Ensuring compliance through technological means may include user and location authentication through Internet Protocol (IP) checking, content timeouts, print-disabling, cut & paste disabling, etc.

What TEACH Does Not Allow

The new exemptions under TEACH specifically do not extend to:

  • Electronic reserves, coursepacks (electronic or paper) or interlibrary loan (ILL).
  • Commercial document delivery.
  • Textbooks or other digital content provided under license from the author, publisher, aggregator or other entity.
  • Conversion of materials from analog to digital formats, except when the converted material is used solely for authorized transmissions and when a digital version of a work is unavailable or protected by technological measures.

It is also important to note that TEACH does not supersede fair use or existing digital license agreements.

Ultimately, it is up to each academic institution to decide whether to take advantage of the new copyright exemptions under TEACH. This decision should consider both the extent of the institution's distance-education programs and its ability to meet the education, compliance and technological requirements of TEACH.

Source: The information on this web page is based on Austin Community College Copyright and Fair Use page and the Copyright Clearance Center Open external Web site