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Copyright: TEACH Act

Guide for using copyrighted materials for students and faculty.

TEACH Act - Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (2002)

The TEACH Act is a copyright exemption that covers teaching conducted through digital transmission. It addresses performance and display of copyrighted materials used in teaching. Even if your class has on ground, face-to-face sessions, anything you transmit through course delivery systems, such as Blackboard, would fall under the TEACH Act, unless you choose to use Fair Use as an alternative exemption. The TEACH Act is not a wild card exemption to do anything you want; it comes with limitations.

Teachers have more privileges in face-to-face teaching situations for the use of copyrighted materials than teachers in online instruction. The TEACH Act attempts to bring the two environments closer together, but the playing fields are still not level.

The TEACH Act does not cover the use of textual materials such as readings.

Provisions of the Act

The Act allows teachers to show the full performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or display the following types of materials:

  • a sound recording of a poem
  • a sound recording of a piece of literature
  • a recorded symphony still images, photographs (these are considered "displays")
  • still images from subscription databases if allowed by license
  • text if it is something that would normally be "displayed" in a face to face class; not if it is something only to be read by students

Teachers may only display "reasonable and limited portions" of dramatic works. Use only the portions that are necessary to make a point. (Teachers in face-to-face classrooms may use the following works in their entirety):

  • dramatic works
  • audio/visual works
  • musicals
  • operas
  • commercial films
  • music videos

Teachers may not transmit or display instructional materials without permission or licensing which students are commonly expected to purchase, such as:

  • textbooks
  • coursepacks
  • workbooks
  • digital educational work (made for the purpose of performance or display for use in mediated instruction)

Works "produced or marketed primarily for performance or display as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks" should not be copied, but purchased and used as intended by the publisher.

Obligations of the teacher under the TEACH Act

  • The performance or display is made by or under the supervision of an instructor.
  • The performance or display is directly related and integral to the class content, not ancillary like Reserves.
  • The work is part of systematic mediated instructional activities.
  • The "transmission is made solely for and limited to students officially enrolled in the course."
  • Materials that are used for performance or display must be lawfully made and acquired.
  • Instructor must use reasonable controls to prevent copying and retention of the work, those that would "discourage most users." (streaming is suggested for video; thumbnails, watermarks and disabling right click copy function can be used to protect images.)
  • A digital copy may be made from an analog copy when no digital version is available or when the digital version is technologically protected.
  • Work must carry a warning notice to students. Examples:
    • This performance is copyrighted material permitted for use under the TEACH Act. Viewing is restricted to students enrolled in this course. This material is not to be retained or further distributed.
    • The materials on this course site are only for the use of students enrolled in this course and may not be retained or disseminated to others.


1. Must I use the TEACH Act when I teach online?  
No, you can choose to teach under the TEACH Act, which carries more requirements or use Fair Use, which carries more risk.

2. Can I digitize an analog video (i.e. VHS) to show it to my distance education class?
Yes, in an amount limited to what is necessary for the class, if:  

  • there is no digital version available to your institution at a reasonable price
  • the digitized copy is retained by the institution
  • if it is used only for teaching under Section 110(2) criteria
  • if no one circumvents technological protection measures to make the digital copy.

3. Can I reuse my materials later in the semester for the same class?
Yes, you can re-show or redisplay the content to support your curriculum later in the semester, even if you used it earlier.

4. Can I reuse my teaching materials in subsequent semesters in my online class?
If materials are integral to the course content and are used in performance or display, the materials may be reused without permission. Copies of these items must be made from a legally acquired copy of the work. Supplementary or ancillary materials and readings may require permission or royalty payments.

5. Can I show a YouTube video to my distance education class? 
The best way to handle a YouTube video is to link to it. However, it is advisable not to show a YouTube video that contains infringing material.

6. Does the Teach Act apply just to credit courses?
No, it can be used with non-credit courses also.

7. I am a film studies/media studies teacher; can I override technological protection measures (TPMs) to create clips of videos to show my class? Can any faculty member override TPMS to make video clips?
The latest 2012 DMCA exemptions lay out a series of provisions for all faculty of any department. The following is a summary, but please see the DMCA tab for more complete details. Most videos today are protected by content scrambling systems (CSS) or some kind of technological protection measures (TPMs) which may not legally be circumvented. The 2012 DMCA exemptions, however, permit faculty and students requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts to circumvent protection measures to make short portions available for viewing. The exemption applies only to motion pictures on DVD or from online distribution services, (not to Blu-ray) and the circumvention is allowed only when “necessary because reasonably available alternatives, such as noncircumventing methods or using screen capture software …are not able to produce the level of high-quality content required to achieve the desired criticism or comment.” If a very high-quality copy is not required for the criticism or comment, the law permits the use of screen capture software. Faculty might try products like Camtasia, Jing, and Screencast-o-matic.

Again, the TEACH Act only permits the showing of limited portions for dramatic works. Consider requiring students to get their own subscriptions to online video services if you will be using a lot of videos.

Permission or licensing may be the only available option to show more than the law allows.

8. Who can help me with copyright permissions?
Please contact Ashley Creek for additional assistance.

Additional Information