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Copyright: A Guide

What does the TEACH Act permit?

The TEACH Act provides teachers some exceptions to copyright to accommodate use of copyrighted works in online course management systems. Complete "non-dramatic" musical and literary works can be performed, and "reasonable and limited portions" of other works, such as films and plays and dramatic music can be performed. As well, displays of works such as image, text, and multimedia can be shown in an amount that would be shown in a single in-person class session.

What criteria do I need to meet to take advantage of the TEACH Act?

The TEACH Basic Checklist provides a list of the key ingredients needed to take advantage of TEACH. And here is an expanded checklist.

Some of the main criteria to consider when applying the TEACH Act:

  • The institution is nonprofit and educational; and
  • The instructor is the one who decides to use the work; and
  • A lawfully acquired copy of the work is used; and
  • The work is relevant to the course; and
  • Access is limited to students enrolled in the course; and
  • Authorized users do not distribute the work to others; and
  • The work is taken down at the end of the semester.


What constitutes "reasonable and limited portions"?

“What constitutes a ‘‘reasonable and limited’’ portion should take into account both the nature of the market for that type of work and the pedagogical purposes of the performance.”
-U.S. Congress, Senate, Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2001. 107th Cong., 1st sess., 2001, S. Doc. 7, serial 107-31

What about copying and performing entire videos per the TEACH Act?

“The exhibition of an entire film may possibly constitute a ‘reasonable and limited’ demonstration if the film’s entire viewing is exceedingly relevant toward achieving a educational goal; however, the likelihood of an entire film portrayal being ‘reasonable and limited” may be rare.”
-Copyright Exemptions for Distance Education: 17 U.S.C. § 110(2), the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002 (Congressional Research Service)


"Video that is streamed for e-reserves also could fall under the TEACH Act because videos are works that are performed. The TEACH Act does not permit the performance of entire audiovisual works without a license but only a 'reasonable and limited portion' of a work.... Copying the entire copyright video...would constitute an unlawful reproduction."
-Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals, Laura N. Gasaway

What is the TEACH Act?

The TEACH Act is a recent addition to U.S. copyright law that permits the use of some copyrighted materials in online education.