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Copyright: Basic Facts for Teaching

What is the Teach Act?

President George W. Bush on November 2, 2002, signed the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act. This Act is the product of discussion and negotiation among academic institutions, publishers, library organizations and Congress. It offers many improvements over previous regulations, specifically sections 110(2) and 112(f) of the U.S. Copyright Act.


The Copyright Clearance Center states that, "the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) act facilitates and enables the performance and display of copyrighted materials for distance education by accredited, non-profit educational institutions (and some government entities) that meet the Act's qualifying requirements. Its primary purpose is to balance the needs of distance learners and educators with the rights of copyright holders. TEACH applies to distance education that includes the participation of any enrolled student, on or off campus."

It is important to note that the TEACH Act does not supersede Fair Use or existing digital license agreements.

Teach Act Requirements

In exchange for unprecedented access to copyright-protected material for distance education, TEACH requires that the academic institution meet specific requirements for copyright compliance and education.  (For the full list of requirements see the TEACH Act at


In order for the use of copyrighted materials in distance education to qualify for the TEACH exemptions, the following criteria must be met:

  • The institution must be an accredited, non-profit educational institution.
  • The use must be part of mediated instructional activities.
  • The use must be limited to a specific number of students enrolled in a specific class.
  • The use must either be for 'live' or asynchronous class sessions.
  • The use must not include the transmission of textbook materials, materials "typically purchased or acquired by students," or works developed specifically for online uses.
  • Only "reasonable and limited portions," such as might be performed or displayed during a typical live classroom session, may be used.
  • The institution must have developed and publicized its copyright policies, specifically informing students that course content may be covered by copyright, and include a notice of copyright on the online materials.
  • The institution must implement some technological measures to ensure compliance with these policies, beyond merely assigning a password.
  • Ensuring compliance through technological means may include user and location authentication through Internet Protocol (IP) checking, content timeouts, print-disabling, cut & paste disabling, etc.

What the TEACH Act does allow

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 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.

What the TEACH Act does not allow

The new exemptions under the TEACH Act specifically do not extend to:
  • Works that are marketed "primarily for performance or display as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks" (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.
  • Electronic reserves, coursepacks (electronic or paper) or interlibrary loan (ILL).
  • Commercial document delivery.
  • Textbooks or other digital content provided under license from the author, publisher, aggregator or other entity.
  • Conversion of materials from analog to digital formats, except when the converted material is used solely for authorized transmissions and when a digital version of a work is unavailable or protected by technological measures.

More information on the TEACH Act



 This guide is for informational purposes only.

 It should not be used in place of the advice of legal counsel.