The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act) of 2002, now Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act, gives accredited, nonprofit U.S. educational institutions the right, under certain circumstances, to use copyrighted materials for organized instructional activities that are not in face-to-face traditional classroom settings. Fair use, codified at Section 107 of the Copyright Act, also provides users rights to use materials without permission under certain circumstances and can also apply to online education.
Penn State policy IP05 Policy Governing Copyright Clearance (Formerly AD46) discusses use of the TEACH Act at Penn State.
- 1 How does fair use relate to the TEACH Act?
- 2 Does the TEACH Act apply only to for-credit courses?
- 3 Does using material in a homework exercise count as a mediated instructional activity or does that only include in-class assignments?
- 4 How can I meet the TEACH Act requirement of preventing my students from downloading copyrighted materials such as an image of an artist or photographer’s work and redistributing it without permission?
- 5 How would I communicate copyright restriction language to students?
- 6 How can technology available at Penn State help with compliance with the requirement of preventing students from downloading copyrighted materials?
How does fair use relate to the TEACH Act?
Fair use is a separate right for users under U.S. copyright law. If fair use permits a particular use of material, it is not necessary to consider the TEACH Act. Similarly, if the TEACH Act permits a particular use of material, it is not necessary to consider fair use.
Does the TEACH Act apply only to for-credit courses?
The TEACH Act can apply to non-credit instruction as long as access is limited to participants with an enrolled status.
Does using material in a homework exercise count as a mediated instructional activity or does that only include in-class assignments?
The phrase “mediated instructional activities” from paragraph (2) of the TEACH Act is defined as
activities that use such work as an integral part of the class experience, controlled by or under the actual supervision of the instructor and analogous to the type of performance or display that would take place in a live classroom setting.
The material must be used as part of the course rather than as supplementary materials (e.g. textbooks and course pack materials). Guidelines provided by the American Library Association clarify that the purpose of this language is to prevent the electronic distribution of materials that are specifically created for student use outside the classroom. The quantity of materials which may be copied or scanned should be consistent with what would be presented in the classroom setting.
For instance, the TEACH Act would provide for a homework assignment that included the repeated display of unlimited numbers of digital photographs if used as part of an instructional discussion (e.g., integral to a class presentation). This is because such use is a parallel to the allowed use in class of an unlimited number of photographs as part of the discussion. In this example, the use would be permissible under the TEACH Act because the intended use is a digital replacement or substitute for an in-class display or presentation.
However, the TEACH Act would not provide for the repeated, unlimited use of an unlimited number of photographs where such use is not part of an actual mediated instructional event (e.g., a required “course pack” used as supplemental information). For this use of the materials, the instructor would need to arrange for e-reserves through the library.
How can I meet the TEACH Act requirement of preventing my students from downloading copyrighted materials such as an image of an artist or photographer’s work and redistributing it without permission?
The TEACH Act requires that reasonable efforts be made to prevent retention and dissemination of copyrighted works displayed electronically during the course of instruction.
For example, a visual arts professor teaching an online photography course might have an assignment about the challenges of shooting outdoor photographs in snow. The professor wants to use several snow scene photographs that are copyrighted by a professional nature photographer.
Under the TEACH Act, this would be permissible if the professor takes reasonable steps to ensure the students couldn’t then copy and distribute the images without the copyright holder’s permission. The professor would also need to own a legal copy of the prints, and inform the students that the prints are copyrighted.
Reasonable measures available to the professor to limit the value or use of such downloaded/printed copies include:
- watermarking the image so printed or online versions have a copyright or other mark,
- restricting print capabilities (this would include removing a print option entirely),
- preventing the ability to copy and paste an image onto another Web site,
- and/or the use of low-quality, low-resolution images that would not look good in a printed form.
How would I communicate copyright restriction language to students?
The following language is an example of wording that could be used to make students aware of possible copyright restrictions on materials used in an online or distance course: “This material is presented for use solely by enrolled members of this course. Further reproduction or distribution of this material is expressly prohibited.”
How can technology available at Penn State help with compliance with the requirement of preventing students from downloading copyrighted materials?
Currently, many different types of technology are used at Penn State that can help faculty comply with the requirements of the TEACH Act. Some of these technologies include the use of authentication and streaming video and audio data to prevent unauthorized storage, copying, and distribution of material. Canvas is a convenient way for faculty at Penn State to limit access to copyrighted material.