The TEACH Act, Fair Use, and Copyright
Distance education comes in many different forms and almost invariably raises copyright questions. A distance education program may be a formal course that is offered online, or it may be simply a site where students can obtain materials in connection with a more traditional course. In any such event, educational content is being delivered to students. The process of digitizing, uploading, and delivering content routinely raises copyright issues. Much of the content will be protected by copyright law, and to the extent that the program is using someone else’s copyrighted works, the instructor or institution needs to resolve copyright questions.
As an instructor you may ordinarily use materials in distance education under one of the following circumstances:
- Your materials are in the public domain and not protected under copyright, or
- You have permission from the copyright owner, or
- Your use is within fair use, or
- Your use is within the requirements of the TEACH Act.
While issues of permission and fair use are covered elsewhere on this website, the following links provide details and insights about the TEACH Act. Added by Congress to the U.S. Copyright Act in 2002, the TEACH Act (the “Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act”) has the primary objective of balancing the protection of copyrighted works against the desire to use these materials for instruction in distance education. Accordingly, it does not allow all uses of all works. It may also be implemented only with considerable attention to the many details of the law.
Tools for Using the TEACH Act
- Checklist for Implementing the TEACH Act and Distance Education (PDF)
- Summary of the TEACH Act (PDF) by Kenneth Crews, 2010
- Original Summary by Kenneth Crews, 2002 (On the ALA website)
- The TEACH Act Statute (Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act)
Additional Resources about the TEACH Act
- TEACH Act Tool Kit, North Carolina State University
- Distance Education and the TEACH Act, American Library Association
- Balancing Copyright Concerns: The TEACH Act of 2001, Laura N. Gasaway (PDF)
Developments Regarding the TEACH Act
- Study by the Congressional Research Service: Copyright Exemptions for Distance Education:17 U.S.C. § 110(2), the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002, by Jared Huber et al (2006)
- In a situation that has received considerable press attention, but no legal action to date, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is evidently testing the scope of the TEACH Act and fair use for digitizing and streaming videos. In response to the situation at UCLA, a consortium of library associations has offered its analysis of the TEACH Act, fair use, and Section 110(1) as applied to streaming of videos for instructional purposes. For a contrary view by one of the parties involved in the UCLA controversy, see the paper by Arnold Lutzker in the AIME newsletter, Spring 2010.
Alternatives to Using the TEACH Act (Resources from this Website)
- Fair Use of Copyrighted Works
- Requesting Permission to Use Copyrighted Works
- Finding Works in the Public Domain
When making use of this page under the terms of the CC license, please include this form of attribution: "Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC license from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director." If your needs for the material are outside the scope of the license, please consider fair use or simply asking us for permission.