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TEACH act details

The TEACH Act primarily expanded the copyright exemption for online instruction, including 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 expanded the permissible locations for accessing distance education beyond classrooms or computer labs.

The following actions are allowed in distance education settings under the TEACH Act: 

• Display (showing of a copy) of any work in an amount analogous to what is provided in 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 any location

• 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 in distance education:

• Works that are marketed as part of online instructional activities (commercially available digital educational materials)

• 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

Duties and requirements for instructors

There are numerous conditions and requirements for complying with the terms of the TEACH Act. Use of digital materials must be directly related to the content of the course and must be part of "mediated instructional activities," which means that the digital materials must be the same type of materials that an instructor uses as a part of a classroom session. Ancillary works that are 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 either.

In order to retain the protection offered by the TEACH Act, all materials used in the course must be legally obtained.

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 information about, and promote, copyright compliance.

Institutions must also provide notice to students that course materials may be copyright protected.

Institutions should limit the online transmissions to students enrolled in the particular course to the extent technologically feasible.