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Copyright: Copyright Law for Teachers

An overview of US Copyright Law.


The TEACH Act, passed in 2002, updates Copyright Law to include distance education classes.  Some of the criteria that allows educators to use the TEACH Act include being an accredited institution, limited to a specific number of students, must not be typical items used such as textbooks, and the institution must have a public copyright policy. 

TEACH Act Checklist

Ready to use the TEACH Act? Use this handy checklist to see

__ My institution is a nonprofit accredited educational institution or a government agency

__ It has a policy on the use of copyrighted materials

__ It provides accurate information to faculty, students and staff about copyright

__ Its systems will not interfere with technological controls within the materials I want to use

__ The materials I want to use are specifically for students in my class

__ Only those students will have access to the materials

__ The materials will be provided at my direction during the relevant lesson

__ The materials are directly related and of material assistance to my teaching content

__ My class is part of the regular offerings of my institution

__ I will include a notice that the materials are protected by copyright

__ I will use technology that reasonably limits the students' ability to retain or further distribute the materials

__ I will make the materials available to the students only for a period of time that is relevant to the context of the class session

__ I will store the materials on a secure server and transmit them only as permitted by this law

__ I will not make copies other than the one I need to make the transmission

__ The materials are of the proper type and amount the law authorizes

  • Entire performances of nondramatic literary and musical works

  • Reasonable and limited parts of a dramatic literary, musical, or audiovisual work

  • Displays of other works, such as images, in amounts similar to typical displays in face-to-face teaching

__ The materials are not among those the law specifically excludes from its coverage:

  • Materials specifically marketed for classroom use for digital distance education

  • Copies I know or should know are illegal

  • Textbooks, coursepacks, electronic reserves and similar materials typically purchased individually by the students for independent review outside the classroom or class session

__ If I am using an analog original, I checked before digitizing it to be sure:

  • I copied only the amount that I am authorized to transmit

  • There is no digital copy of the work available except with technological protections that prevent my using it for the class in the way the statute authorizes

Adapted from the Copyright Crash Course, the TEACH Act, by Colleen Lyon, University of Texas Libraries

Additional Tools for Teachers

The Original TEACH Act Toolkit
Exceptions for Instructors in U.S. Copyright Law

Online Copyright Courses That May Require Tuition

Copyright for Educators & Librarians - This Coursera course provides an excellent overview of the copyright law of the United States. Topics covered include: history of copyright, fair use, and owning rights, among others.

Copyright for Multimedia - This copyright course from Coursera covers copyright issues for audio and video recordings and images.

Education World - The Educator's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use - A five part guide copyright and fair use for educators from Education World.

Public Domain Information

Some materials are in the public domain, which means the intellectual property is not owned or controlled by any person or entity. Materials in the public domain can be used freely, although they may need to be properly cited. Determining copyright terms and what is in the public domain can be difficult; this site is an informational starting point.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain
The Copyright Genie

Educational Fair Use by Lisa Jorgensen

Education Copyright Infographic.