New Roles, Rules and Responsibilities
for Academic Institutions
Signed by President Bush on November 2, 2002,
the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization
(TEACH) Act was the product of discussion
and negotiation among academic institutions, publishers, library
organizations and Congress. It offered many improvements over
previous regulations, specifically by amending sections 110(2)
and 112(f) of the U.S. Copyright Act. The following overview of
the TEACH Act seeks to balance the perspectives of both copyright
owners and content users, and provide guidance for today's academic
A Brief Guide to TEACH
Although copyright law generally treats digital and non-digital
copyright-protected works in a similar manner, special digital
uses, such as online distance learning and course management systems,
require special attention. Some of the special copyright requirements
of online distance learning are specifically addressed by the
The TEACH Act facilitates and enables the performance and display
of copyrighted materials for distance education by accredited,
non-profit educational institutions (and some government entities)
that meet the Act's qualifying requirements. Its primary purpose
is to balance the needs of distance learners and educators with
the rights of copyright holders. TEACH applies to distance education
that includes the participation of any enrolled student, on or
- Instructors may use a wider range of works in distance learning
- Students may participate in distance learning sessions from
virtually any location.
- All participants enjoy greater latitude when it comes to
storing, copying and digitizing materials.
In exchange for unprecedented access to copyright-protected
material for distance education, TEACH requires that the academic
institution meet specific requirements for copyright compliance
and education. For the full list of requirements, refer to the
TEACH Act at www.copyright.gov/legislation/archive/.
In order for the use of copyrighted materials
in distance education to qualify for the TEACH exemptions, the
following criteria must be met:
- The institution must be an accredited, non-profit educational
- The use must be part of mediated instructional activities.
- The use must be limited to a specific number of students
enrolled in a specific class.
- The use must either be for 'live' or asynchronous class sessions.
- The use must not include the transmission of textbook materials,
materials "typically purchased or acquired by students,"
or works developed specifically for online uses.
- Only "reasonable and limited portions," such as
might be performed or displayed during a typical live classroom
session, may be used.
- The institution must have developed and publicized its copyright
policies, specifically informing students that course content
may be covered by copyright, and include a notice of copyright
on the online materials.
- The institution must implement some technological measures
to ensure compliance with these policies, beyond merely assigning
a password. Ensuring compliance through technological means
may include user and location authentication through Internet
Protocol (IP) checking, content timeouts, print-disabling, cut
& paste disabling, etc.
What TEACH Does Not Allow
The new exemptions under TEACH specifically do not
- Electronic reserves, coursepacks (electronic or paper) or
interlibrary loan (ILL).
- Commercial document delivery.
- Textbooks or other digital content provided under license
from the author, publisher, aggregator or other entity.
- Conversion of materials from analog to digital formats, except
when the converted material is used solely for authorized transmissions
and when a digital version of a work is unavailable or protected
by technological measures.
It is also important to note that TEACH does not supersede fair
use or existing digital license agreements.
Ultimately, it is up to each academic institution to decide whether
to take advantage of the new copyright exemptions under TEACH.
This decision should consider both the extent of the institution's
distance-education programs and its ability to meet the education,
compliance and technological requirements of TEACH.