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What is the T.E.A.C.H. Act?




In 2002, Congress passed the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (T.E.A.C.H.) Act to address copyright concerns in online distance learning and course management systems. Previously, copyright law strictly limited educators’ ability to remain compliant in an online setting. The T.E.A.C.H. Act expands rights in the following ways:

  • Transmission of performances of the entirety of a non-dramatic literary or musical work
  • Transmission of reasonable and limited portions of any other performance
  • Transmission of any work in amounts comparable to typical face-to-face displays

In order to be T.E.A.C.H. Act compliant, there is a formidable list of conditions that must be met by the educational institution. At this time, Wayne State University has not implemented the T.E.A.C.H. Act and WSU faculty are not able to use the act to justify their use of copyright materials within their online instruction.



The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002 is an amendment to U.S. copyright law that permits the performance and display of copyrighted works for distance education. In order to apply the TEACH Act, the following requirements must be satisfied:

  • Distance education must be conducted at nonprofit educational institution
  • Only copies that were lawfully made and acquired may be displayed.
  • Use is limited to performances and displays. The TEACH Act does not apply to materials that are for students' independent use and retention, such as textbooks or readings.
  • Use of materials must be within the context of "mediated instructional activities" analogous to the activities of a face-to-face class session.
  • The materials to be used should not include those primarily marketed for the purposes of distance education (i.e. an electronic textbook or a multimedia tutorial).
  • Only those students enrolled in the class should have access to the material.
  • Reasonable efforts must be made to prevent students from distributing the material after viewing it.
  • If a digital version of the work is already available, then an analog copy cannot be converted for educational use.
  • Students must be informed that the materials they access are protected by copyright.
  • The educational institution must have a policy on the use of copyrighted materials and provide informative resources for faculty advising them on their rights.

The requirements for complying with the TEACH Act are numerous and onerous. As opportunities for applying the TEACH Act are limited in scope, keep in mind that you may also consider to fair use when using copyrighted works online and in distance education settings.

The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (“TEACH”) Act was enacted in November 2002 as an amendment to the Copyright Act of 1976. Under the Teach Act, accredited, nonprofit U.S. educational institutions are permitted to make certain copyright-protected materials available online to students, without having to obtain permission from the copyright holder. It is important to emphasize that the TEACH Act’s exemptions are intended for distance learning purposes only.

In selecting the works to display on their course websites, faculty members are responsible for determining whether each work meets the requirements of the TEACH Act. When invoking the TEACH Act, here are important guidelines to follow:

Material authorized for online display under the TEACH Act:

  1. Only display online copies that were lawfully made and acquired. Use of pirated works or works copied from a television broadcast is prohibited.
  2. Only display online material that is an integral part of the course, part of a “systematic mediated instruction activity” (in other words, class session(s) must be dedicated to teaching the material), and directly related and of material assistance to the teaching of the course.  Use of the material must be a required class assignment (and not an optional or supplemental assignment or activity).
  3. Do not display online textbooks, course packets and other materials students are typically required to purchase for the course.
  4. Do not display online materials that are sold or licensed primarily for online education.
  5. Works in analog format: If you intend to use works in analog format, find out if a lawfully made digital version is available for purchase, rental or license. If a digital version is available, you must use that digital copy and not reproduce the analog version into digital form. If a digital version is not available, then material on the analog version may be converted into a digital format and displayed online.
  6. Non-dramatic musical or literary works: If the material is a performance of a non-dramatic musical or literary work (e.g. music, poetry or short story reading), then the entire work may be used.
  7. Dramatic musical or literary works: If the material is a performance of a dramatic musical or literary work (e,g, film, music video, opera, musical, etc.), limit use of the work to an amount and duration comparable to what would be displayed or performed in a live classroom session. Generally, instructor-created compilations may be displayed online.
  8. Alternatives to the TEACH Act: If the digital display of any material is desired, but not authorized under the TEACH Act, seek a license directly from the copyright holder or determine if the unauthorized use may be exempted under the “fair use” provisions of the Copyright Act. Consult the Fair Use Tool and the University Copyright Policy, which are available on the website of the Office of the General Counsel.

Restrictions on access under the TEACH Act:

  1. Current enrollment: Restrict access to course webpages on which copyrighted materials are loaded only to students enrolled in the course.
  2. Duration of access: Restrict the duration of such access only to the length of time comparable to a live classroom session.
  3. No retention, dissemination or reproduction: Retention of any copies past the class session, dissemination of any copies, and the making of any copies by enrolled students or by other authorized course website users are prohibited.

Notice required under the TEACH Act:
Make sure a notice similar to the following is placed prominently on each course website:

Materials on University course and project sites may be subject to copyright protection, and may be restricted from further dissemination, retention or copying. Unauthorized use of copyrighted materials is subject to disciplinary actíon pursuant to the University’s policy against copyright infringement, and to civil and criminal liability provided under federal copyright law.


The information presented in this guide is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions, please contact the DCCCD General Counsel.

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