TEACH ACT: Using Copyrighted Works Online

This section is written in regard to distance learning and the posting of copyrighted materials online. The online environment differs from a traditional classroom in three major ways:

Access – password protection is needed

Storage – do not store longer than permissions allow

Potential for infringement – information can be easily downloaded, altered, and further transmitted

In November of 2002 the Technology Education and Copyright Harmonization Act (the TEACH Act) was passed. “TEACH redefines the terms and conditions on which accredited, non-profit educational institutions throughout the U.S. may use copyright protected materials in distance education-including on websites and other digital means—without permission from the copyright owner and without payment of royalties.”

-Kenneth D. Crews, Professor of Law; Director, Copyright Management Center Indiana University School of Law

Under the TEACH Act, certain copyrighted materials may be used in electronic formats without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. In order to qualify to use copyrighted materials under the TEACH Act, several conditions must be satisfied:


Faculty Responsibility:

  1. The material must be provided at the direction of or under the supervision of an instructor and must be an integral part of the course curriculum (i.e., not merely entertainment or unrelated background material).
  2. The amount of material provided must be comparable to that typically displayed in a live classroom session. For certain works, the display of the entire work could be consistent with displays typically made in a live classroom setting (e.g., short poems or essays, or photographic images). Distribution of entire textbooks, course-packs or supplemental readings would not be authorized under the TEACH Act.
  3. You must provide notice to students that materials distributed in the course may be subject to copyright protection.


Technology Requirements:

Technology measures must be employed so that:

  1. To the extent technologically feasible, the transmission of material is limited to students enrolled in the course (through password-restricted access or other similar measures);
  2. The material is available to students for a limited duration no longer than the "class session" i.e., the period during which a student is logged on to the server. Students may not be permitted to retain a permanent copy of the material or to further disseminate it.


Teach Act Restrictions:

The TEACH Act does not authorize:

  1. The use of copyrighted digitized works specifically created for distance learning instructional activities (permission, clearance, purchase or licensing must be obtained prior to use)
  2. The use of works that you know or suspect are made without permission
  3. The conversion of print or other non-digital versions of works into digital format unless:
    • no there is no digital version of the work available, or
    • the digital version has been protected with technology measures that prevent it from being use

    Note: Both conditions above require that conversion take place only with respect to the portion of the work permitted by the TEACH Act’s size restrictions.

“The TEACH Act is a clear signal that Congress recognizes the importance of distance education, the significance of digital media, and the need to resolve copyright clashes. The new law is nevertheless, built around a vision that distance education should occur in discrete installments, each within a confined span of time, and with all elements integrated into a cohesive lecture-like package.”

-Kenneth D. Crews, Professor of Law
Director, Copyright Management Center Indiana University School of Law


TEACH Act Resources: