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The TEACH Act, the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002, allows distance learning instructors at non-profit, educational institutions to use some copyrighted works for class purposes without having to seek copyright permissions for those copyright covered works. There are a variety of reasons why this law was needed. Faculties in distance learning environments were not afforded close to the same privileges that face to face instructors were granted in terms of copyright. In fact, distance learning faculty had severe limitations under previous copyright law, in terms of the types of works they could use in this environment and also how they could transmit materials to students, which did not include electronic transmissions. The recent changes brought by the TEACH Act show significant recognition and support by Congress of distance learning. It shows an understanding that education has significantly changed to include the flexibility of distance learning environments and the electronic proliferation of information in a variety of online mediums.

This new law allows digital transmission of materials to distance learning students via their computer, allowing students to access supplemental resources for the course anytime in the duration of a "class session". Under the TEACH Act, more types of works (dramatic and non-dramatic literary, musical and pictorial works) are also allowed to be transmitted online, without seeking prior copyright permission. These transmissions of materials are, however, subject to length provisions. Another clause of the TEACH Act allows digitization of works, if they currently do not exist in an electronic format. While the law adds greater flexibility for distance learning instructors, there are still significant limitations as to what is protected under this law.

Distance learning instructors should adhere to a variety of responsibilities to be in compliance with this new law. This includes acknowledging credit to any copyrighted works used in the course and informing students of the copyright limitations of materials. Any material used in a DL course must be supervised by the instructor, and must be integral and directly related to the course.

For additional information, we encourage you to contact the Library. Librarians can help you locate and disseminate information to be used legally in your online courses. We can also help you learn about the changing scope of copyright laws. The links below will provide you with additional resources for further explanation on copyright and the TEACH Act.


Crews, Kenneth D., prepared for the American Library Association. New Copyright Law for Distance Education: The Meaning and Importance of the TEACH Act

Dolak, Fritz, prepared for the ITC Professional Development Audioconference Copyright Workshop

Salomon, Kenneth D., Dow, Lohnes & Albertson Law. Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002