TEACH Act Guidelines

The 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 the face-to-face instruction exception in 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.

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.

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

  • Avoid use of commercial works that are sold or licensed for purposes of digital distance education.
  • Avoid use of pirated works, or works where you otherwise have reason to know the copy was not lawfully made.
  • Generally limit use of works to an amount and duration comparable to what would be displayed or performed in a live physical classroom setting. Consult the Checklist for more specifics. In other words, TEACH does not authorize the digital transmission of textbooks or coursepacks to students.
  • Supervise the digital performance or display, make it an integral part of a class session, and make it part of a systematic mediated instructional activity. In other words, the 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.
  • 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."
  • 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. The Checklist contains sample language that can be used for this purpose.