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Copyright in Higher Education: The TEACH Act

What Is the TEACH Act?

§ 110(1) of U.S. copyright law authorizes the “performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction.” In response to technological developments in the field of education, the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act was passed in 2002 revising § 110 of U.S. copyright law to define to what extent and under what circumstances distance education uses qualifies for inclusion in this exception. See the Cornell Law School's Notes related to Section 110 for details on how to understand educational uses and the development of the law.

What kinds of uses does the TEACH Act authorize?

§ 110(2) of U.S. copyright law (the TEACH Act) allows nonprofit educational institutions and government bodies to transmit via digital networks:

  • performances of nondramatic literary or musical works
  • performances of "reasonable and limited portions" of any other works
  • displays of works "in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session

Excepted are works "produced or marketed" primarily for such use and performances or displays given by means of copies the transmitting body has reason to believe were not lawfully made or acquired.

What are the requirements of the TEACH ACT?

Institutions must meet a number of requirements to qualify for protection under the TEACH Act:

  • performances or displays can only be made at the direction or under the supervision of instructors as integral parts of class sessions offered as a regular part of the systematic instructional activities of the institution
  • performances or displays must be directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content of the transmissions
  • reception of transmissions must be limited to students officially enrolled in the course(s) in question
  • the transmitting institution must institute policies regarding copyright and provide informational materials which accurately describe and promote compliance with U.S. copyright law to faculty, students, and staff
  • all transmitted materials must include copyright notices
  • the transmitting institution must apply technological measures preventing the retention of works for longer than the class session and the unauthorized further dissemination of transmitted work, and cannot interfere with any such measures already in place

What if my proposed use ISN'T covered by the TEACH Act?

Many, if not most, educational uses of copyrighted material are also covered under § 107 of U.S. copyright law, the fair use exception. Go to the Fair Use section of this guide for more information.

For help making a fair use determination, please see the Columbia Copyright Advisory Office's Fair Use Checklist.

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