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Guide to copyright for A&T communities


With the increase of online and distance education, there has been a need to address how materials are used in the classroom by both instructors and students.  The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act was passed in 2002.  It updates current copyright law to accomodate the new teaching environments that instructors are using to deliver education at a distance or in virtual environments.


  • The purpose of the act is to address the use of course materials for online and distance courses.
  • The act does not attempt to address the uses of supplementary material used solely by students.
  • Materials used in online / distance education classes must be integrated into the instruction and used interactively by the instructor.
  • In general, as with primary copyright law, only portions of a work may be used.
  • The integration and use of materials in the class shouldn't be done in such a way as to circumvent the purchase of materials by students.
  • Fair Use guidelines still apply

TEACH Act Checklist

The requirements for applying the TEACH Act are fairly extensive.  TEACH Basic Checklist, from the University of Texas:

Ready to use the TEACH Act? Use this handy checklist to see

__ My institution is a nonprofit accredited educational institution or a government agency

__ It has a policy on the use of copyrighted materials

__ It provides accurate information to faculty, students and staff about copyright

__ Its systems will not interfere with technological controls within the materials I want to use

__ The materials I want to use are specifically for students in my class

__ Only those students will have access to the materials

__ The materials will be provided at my direction during the relevant lesson

__ The materials are directly related and of material assistance to my teaching content

__ My class is part of the regular offerings of my institution

__ I will include a notice that the materials are protected by copyright

__ I will use technology that reasonably limits the students' ability to retain or further distribute the materials

__ I will make the materials available to the students only for a period of time that is relevant to the context of the class session

__ I will store the materials on a secure server and transmit them only as permitted by this law

__ I will not make copies other than the one I need to make the transmission

__ The materials are of the proper type and amount the law authorizes

  • Entire performances of nondramatic literary and musical works
  • Reasonable and limited parts of a dramatic literary, musical, or audiovisual work
  • Displays of other works, such as images, in amounts similar to typical displays in face-to-face teaching

__ The materials are not among those the law specifically excludes from its coverage:

  • Materials specifically marketed for classroom use for digital distance education
  • Copies I know or should know are illegal
  • Textbooks, coursepacks, electronic reserves and similar materials typically purchased individually by the students for independent review outside the classroom or class session

__ If I am using an analog original, I checked before digitizing it to be sure:

  • I copied only the amount that I am authorized to transmit
  • There is no digital copy of the work available except with technological protections that prevent my using it for the class in the way the statute authorizes


Right or Wrong?

Media, e.g. pictures, videos, mp3s, movs, apvs, etc., are becoming more prevalent in the classroom, and you need to understand how copyright law affects your use and manipulation of these types.  The basic premise of copyright is that you are free to use the materials during classroom instruction, but you may not archive them, share them beyond the classroom, or convert between formats.  These are general premises that do have exceptions in certain situations.

Some things to think about are:

     Did you download the image from the Internet?

     Did you use screen capture software to copy a video image?

     Did you get an audio file from a friend via email?

     Did someone send you a copy of unreleased material, e.g. audio, video, etc.?

     Did you convert your favorite video from VHS to DVD?

Misuse of these types of materials is a potential violation of copyright.  It is important to remember that just because it lacks a copyright symbol or was found on the Internet does not mean it is in the public domain.  Many images both still and moving are copyrighted and appear on the Internet in violation of current copyright law.  Just because you found it on Google does not mean you can use it without permission.