The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act was passed in November 2002 as
an amendment to the face-to-face performance and display exemption of copyright law (sections 110(2) and 112).
It updates the older distance education statute to include instruction via digital networks so that instructors may have
greater freedom to use copyrighted works in teaching without having to obtain permission from copyright owners. The exemption
is somewhat complex and includes numerous requirements, and is only one of several options available to instructors when using
copyrighted works in their courses.
Benefits to educational institutions under the TEACH Act:
The TEACH Act primarily facilitates distance learning by expanding the copyright exemption for instruction. Changes resulting
from the TEACH Act include an expansion of the range of allowable works in distance education settings. It permits the
performance or display of complete non-dramatic literary or musical works, such as the reading of a poem or short story, or
listening to music other than opera or musicals. Showing films or videos is still restricted to limited portions. The TEACH Act
also expands the permissible receiving locations for distance education beyond classrooms or computer labs.
Duties and requirements for instructors:
Use of digital materials must be part of "mediated instructional activities," must be the same type of
materials that an instructor would use as a part of a classroom session, and must be directly related to the content of the
course. Ancillary works that might be viewed or listened to outside of class are not included under the exemption. The TEACH
Act permits digitizing analog works as long as the works are not already available in digital form. Commercial works marketed
for the educational market, such as electronic texts or workbooks, cannot be used under the TEACH Act exemption, and paper
versions of these works cannot be digitized. In order to retain the protection offered by the TEACH Act, all materials used in
the course must be legally obtained.
General institutional requirements established under the TEACH Act:
The benefits of the TEACH Act apply only to accredited non-profit educational institutions or government
bodies. Institutions must have policies regarding copyright, and must disseminate copyright information and promote copyright
compliance. Institutions must also provide notice to students that course materials may be copyright protected.
Information technology requirements established under the TEACH
Institutions should limit the transmissions to students enrolled in the particular course to the extent
technologically feasible. The TEACH Act allows temporary storage of copyrighted material on a server to facilitate asynchronous
In short, the following actions are allowed under the TEACH Act:
- Display (showing of a copy) of any work in an amount analogous
to a physical classroom setting.
- Performance of nondramatic literary works.
- Performance of nondramatic musical works.
- Performance of "reasonable and limited" portions of other
types of work (other than nondramatic literary or musical work)
EXCEPT digital educational works.
- Distance-education students may receive transmissions at
- Retention of content and distant student access for the length
of a "class session."
- Copying and storage for a limited time or necessary for digital
transmission to students.
- Digitization of portions of analog works if no digital version
is available or if digital version is not in an accessible form.
The following are NOT allowed under the TEACH Act:
- Works that are marketed "primarily for performance or display
as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via
digital networks" (commercially available digital educational
- Unlawful copies of copyrighted works under the U.S. Copyright Law, if the institution "knew or had reason to believe"
that they were not lawfully made and acquired.
Resources about the Teach Act