TEACH in Context


Faculty and students will often want to incorporate some or all of the copyrighted work of others into course materials that are to be digitized and transmitted for distance education.  In the past, this could be lawfully accomplished via the fair use provisions (17 U.S.C. 107) and/or the performance/display exemptions (17 U.S.C. 110(2)) of the copyright act.  In November 2002, the performance and display exemptions of the copyright act were revised and updated to address the digital environment.  The revised provisions facilitate this digital educational use of materials without having to seek copyright permission, subject to several conditions.  The conditions are outlined at this website, but faculty and students are encouraged to seek advice from their university attorneys and copyright experts.

This update of copyright law is called the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH).  The TEACH exemption is one of several options faculty and students have when using copyrighted works in their course materials.  Some background on copyright law and the options available to faculty and students are set out below.

Federal law automatically gives copyright protection to "original works of authorship" at the moment they are "fixed in a tangible medium of expression."  In most cases, the copyright belongs to the person who authors or creates text, images, software code, video, audio, and layout ("works") for distance education.  Use of the works of others must comply with copyright law.  There are basically four ways to do this:

  1. Determine whether the work is protected by copyright.  Some works are not protected by copyright because they have entered the public domain or are not subject to copyright.  See Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States.  
  2. Qualify for fair use of the work.  The law allows limited use of works without the copyright holder's permission if four conditions are satisfied.  See TEACH and Fair Use (coming) and the Fair Use Considerations Guide.
  3. Qualify under TEACH 
    See information on this website
  4. Get permission from the copyright holder.  It may take considerable time to do this and may require a fee or royalties.  See the Permissions Guide