Copyright law provides educators with a separate set of rights in addition to fair use to show and perform others’ works face to face in the classroom. These rights are found in Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act and apply to any work, regardless of medium. However, until 2002, the rights given for face-to-face teaching were not extended as liberally to distance education. Now, the TEACH Act
[Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act], a revised Section 110(2) and 112(f) of the Copyright Act , has brought distance education rights closer to face-to-face rights. Although the act is a major improvement over the previous versions, the law still imposes numerous requirements for distance education that go beyond the limits in the traditional classroom.
The TEACH Act authorizes works to be digitized for use in distance education.
The following are key benefits:
- Instructors have an expanded range of allowed works
- Students may participate in distance learning from virtually any location.
- Participants have great latitude in storing, copying, and digitizing materials.
As the TEACH Act expands rights, it also sets a number of conditions.
- On the institution side, the following conditions must apply:
- The institution must be a “government body” or accredited, non-profit educational institution.
- The institution must have a copyright policy in place.
- The institution must provide information materials about copyright that accurately describe and promote compliance with copyright laws.
- The institution must serve notice to students, faculty, and staff that materials used in connection with a course may be subject to copyright protection.
- The institution must use access restrictions so that content is transmitted solely for students officially enrolled in a course.
On the instructor side, the following conditions apply:
- The instructor may use non-dramatic literary and musical works.
- The instructor may use “reasonable portions” of dramatic literary and musical works.
- The instructor may not use materials designed and marketed for distance learning applications.
- The material used must serve an educational purpose related to class.
- The instructor may not use materials that would normally be purchased by students in face-to-face settings.
The TEACH Act is an opportunity but also a responsibility. When the new law does not yield a satisfactory result, one of the following alternatives may be explored:
- Employing alternative methods for delivering materials to students, including diverse library services
- Securing permission from the copyright owners for use of materials beyond the law
- Applying the law of fair use, which may allow uses beyond those used in the TEACH Act.