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The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act was signed into law in October 2002 and took effect immediately.

What is the TEACH Act?

The TEACH Act revises Section 110 of the U.S. Copyright Act that governs the use of copyrighted material for the purpose of education. Specifically, it both modifies and clarifies the ways in which copyrighted material may be used in distance education by an “accredited nonprofit educational institution,” without permission of the copyright owner. By meeting the requirements of the law (to use works appropriately), educators can avoid copyright infringement and the payment of royalties to the owner of copyrighted works.

How does the TEACH Act modify previous copyright law?

The TEACH Act extends earlier permissions granted to educators, but also specifies new requirements for how far educational institutions must go in preventing copyright infringement. Educators are only protected under the TEACH Act if they work for an accredited institution and that institution is in compliance with the new requirements. In essence, the greater freedoms granted to instructors are balanced with greater responsibility for oversight or management of distance education at the institutional level.

Additional Permissions

What additional permissions does the TEACH Act grant?

The TEACH Act only modifies previous copyright law in certain specific instances. It does not in any way modify the previous standards for “fair use” of copyrighted materials.

Specifically, the TEACH Act:

  • Permits the display and performance of nearly all types of works
  • Removes the previous restriction that content must be transmitted to a classroom, so now there is no restriction on a recipient’s location
  • Permits the retention of content and student access for the length of the “class session”
  • Permits the copying and storage of materials when necessary for digital transmission to students
  • Permits the digitization of analog works if they are to be used for a limited time and are not already available through another means to the institution

New Requirements

What new requirements are established under the TEACH Act?

To be in compliance, each institution must:

  • “Institute policies regarding copyright” (e.g. establish standards for employees and students)
  • Provide information materials about copyright to students, faculty, and staff
  • Provide notice to students when “materials may be subject to copyright protection”
  • Limit the transmission of educational content to enrolled students
  • Prevent the storage of materials where that they are accessible to anyone besides enrolled students
  • Prevent the retention of materials by students for periods longer than the “class session”
  • Prevent the dissemination of materials beyond the students, faculty, and staff 

Additionally, individual instructors are obligated to:

  • Supervise the display or performance of copyrighted materials
  • Ensure that materials used are an integral part of “mediated instructional activities”
  • Ensure that materials used are not “typically purchased or acquired by the students” (i.e. textbooks)

The full text of the TEACH Act as passed by the Senate is available from the Legal Information Institute.