The TEACH Act

Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH) was signed into law on November 2, 2002. This act updates copyright law in the area of digital distance education and, if numerous requirements are met, facilitates the use of copyrighted materials in digital distance education efforts without having to obtain prior permission from the copyright owner. It is an effort to simulate fair use as allowed by copyright law.

However, TEACH imposes certain requirements on the use of copyrighted materials in distance education. TEACH is more restrictive than the law allowing face-to-face instructional use of copyrighted materials. For uses that fall outside the scope of TEACH, the user should seek permission or evaluate the use under the fair use exemption of the copyright law.

TEACH is a compromise between the needs of academe to make free use of copyrighted materials as an efficient and effective teaching tool, and the needs of copyright holders to protect the value of their work effort. Most of the TEACH requirements are designed to allow transmission of copyrighted works (or parts thereof) to a legitimate student audience for a limited time, without permission or license fees, while preventing dissemination that could undermine the market for the works.

In general, faculty who want to incorporate works into digital transmissions for instructional purposes pursuant to TEACH must:

  1. Do not use unlicensed commercial works that are sold or licensed for purposes of digital distance education.
  2. Do not use pirated works, or works where you otherwise have reason to know the copy was not lawfully made.
  3. Generally limit use of works to an amount and duration comparable to what would be displayed or performed in a live physical classroom setting. TEACH does not authorize the digital transmission of textbooks or course packs to students.
  4. Faculty should interactively use the copyrighted work as part of a class assignment in the distance education course. It should not be an entertainment add-on or passive background/optional reading.
  5. Use software tools provided by the university to limit access to the works to students enrolled in the course, to prevent downstream copying by those students, and to prevent the students from retaining the works for longer than a “class session.'
  6. Notify the students that the works may be subject to copyright protection and that they may not violate the legal rights of the copyright holder.

Use the Teach Checklist to make sure all requirements have been met.

Explore The TEACH Act