TEACH Guidelines

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH) was signed into law on November 2, 2002.  It updated copyright (Section 110(2)) in the area of digital distance education outlining numerous requirements, that if all are met, would allow the use of copyrighted materials in digital distance education efforts without having to obtain prior permission from the copyright owner.

Even before TEACH, the copyright law treated the transmission of performances and displays of copyrighted works much more strictly than identical performances and displays of those works in face-to-face classroom teaching.  Pedagogically, this makes no sense to faculty and students as those remotely enrolled in a course have the same need to access the materials being used in the teaching of a course as those who are able to attend the course in person.  The restrictive measures always present in Section 110(2) and further detailed in the TEACH Act revision are most likely related to the perceived ease with which the digital versions of the works used could be captured and transmitted beyond the course setting.

What are the TEACH requirements for use of copyrighted materials in distance education?

1.  Avoid use of commercial works that are sold or licensed for purposes of digital distance eduation.

2.  Avoid use of pirated works or works where you otherwise have reason to know the copy was not lawfully made.

3.  Generally, limit use of works to an amount and duration comparable to what would be displayed or performed in a live physical classroom.

4.  Supervise the digital performance or display, make it an integral part of a class session, and make it part of a systematic mediated instructional activity.  In other words, interactively use the copyrighted work as part of a class assignment or in your lecture in the distance education course.  It should not be an entertainment add-on or passive background/optional reading.

5.  Limit access to the works to students enrolled in the course.  Use reasonable measures to prevent downstream copying by those students and to prevent the students from retaining the works for longer than a class session.

6.  Notify the students that the works may be subject to copyright protection.  Here is sample language that can be used for this purpose.

As this list indicates, TEACH is a compromise between the needs of academe to make free use of copyrighted materials as an efficient and effective teaching tool and the needs of copyright holders to protect the value of their work effort.  Most of the TEACH requirements are designed to allow transmission of copyrighted works (or parts thereof) to a legitimate student audience for a limited time without permission or license fees while preventing dissemination that could undermine the market for these works.