The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act
In November 2002 the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH) became law and updated existing copyright laws in the realm of distance education. To offer some clarification concerning TEACH and its effects on distance education here at the University of Baltimore, this page will provide information on the use of copyrighted materials protected by TEACH. For any uses that are unclear in TEACH or do not fall within the purview of TEACH legislation, review the guidelines provided with the fair use exemption of the copyright law or please consult legal counsel. For additional information, read ALA’s Distance Education and the TEACH Act. Also helpful is the University of Texas System’s explanation of the TEACH Act.
Prior to the growth of online education, faculty use of materials in the classroom fell under the fair use exemption of the 1976 Copyright Act, and faculty could use bits of print and audiovisual materials as part of the classroom teaching experience, provided that their use was within the fair use guidelines. Today, with the distribution of many courses and course material via the Internet, faculty will use elements of the TEACH legislation as well as the broader fair use exemption to gauge their use of copyrighted works for online classes.
The law mandates that faculty take reasonable protection measuring when using materials for their online courses, including using password protected sites, notifying students on copyright issues, limiting use to a specified period of time roughly equal to the time used in a physical classroom and incorporating the material in an integral way to course discussion. The legislation also requires that colleges and university draft written copyright policies for their campuses before they can post copyrighted items online.
For more information on what campuses need to do to determine eligibility see North Carolina State University's TEACH Toolkit.
The TEACH Act permits the use of the following copyrighted works:
- Nondramatic literary works
- Nondramatic musical works
- “Reasonable and limited portions” of other works, including audiovisual and dramatic works
The law broadens the transmission of material to locations outside the classroom where students can access online course pages. Faculty must take reasonable actions to limit the access of material, including instituting password-protected sites or using commercial courseware that restricts access to currently enrolled students.
The law does state that copyrighted material may not remain available for access for a period longer than necessary for the needs of the course. The digitized material may, however, be retained electronically for later use, provided the storage facility and equipment is secure.
The legislation now permits the use of many types of copyrighted works, but some works are expressly prohibited under the TEACH legislation. These include digital educational works considered “primarily for performance or display as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks” and pirated copies of materials.
The TEACH Act does not expressly cover reserve readings held in the library or accessible through academic courseware. Legitimate use of such materials is still governed by intelligent application of the principles of “Fair Use”.