The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act (17U.S.C.§110(2)) enacted by Congress in 2002, revised §110(2) and §112 of the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C.). Generally, the purpose of the Act is to define the “conditions under which U.S. accredited, nonprofit educational institutions may use copyrighted content” in online or distance instruction, without permission or payment to the copyright holder (see TEACH Act Best Practices using Blackboard™ by the American Library Association).

With this in mind, an institution that meets the conditions defined in the TEACH Act must provide a reasonable effort to:

  • limit access to copyrighted works to students currently registered in the class;
  • limit access only for the time needed to complete the class session or course;
  • inform instructors, students, and staff of copyright laws and policies;
  • prevent further copying or redistribution of copyrighted works; and
  • not interfere with copy protection mechanisms (e.g., DRM or Digital Rights Management).

George Mason University currently uses Blackboard™  Learning Management System to deliver distance education courses and web-enhanced classroom instruction. Relevant materials posted by an instructor in Blackboard™ are accessible via a required password only to those enrolled students in a given class. Students are allowed to download and print content for independent study, but they may not further disseminate copyrighted works for any other purpose without permission of the copyright owner.

For instructors, copyrighted works that may be transmitted without permission or payment are limited by the TEACH Act to one of the following:

  • A performance of a nondramatic literary work; or
  • A performance of a nondramatic musical work; or
  • A performance of any other work, including dramatic works and audiovisual works, but only in “reasonable and limited portions”; or
  • A display in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session.

Should the material you need for pedagogical purposes not meet these criteria, your use may be a “fair use” or meet another copyright exception. Plus, there is always the option of simply asking the copyright holder for permission, with the possibility of payment, to use his/her content.As further defined in the TEACH Act, material selected for online access must be at the direction of, made by, or under the supervision of an instructor. That is, the material must be integral to the learning objectives of the class, with a clear connection between the instructor and the course material selected.

The Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University Libraries, offers Copyright Checklist: Compliance with the TEACH Act to help a distance education instructor assess integration of each copyrighted work in his/her class. All requirements must be met to prevent a copyright violation; however, if the content doesn’t comply with TEACH, keep in mind fair use and other exemptions may apply. The TEACH Act does not supersede the Fair Use doctrine.

Please contact Claudia Holland, Head, Copyright Resources Office with any questions you might have regarding the TEACH Act.