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Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines

A brief overview of Copyright, Fair Use, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the TEACH Act.

TEACH Act: Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act

The TEACH Act is a copyright exemption that covers teaching conducted through digital transmission; it addresses performance and display of copyrighted materials used in teaching. Even if your class has on ground, face to face sessions, anything you transmit through course delivery systems, such as Canvas, would fall under the TEACH Act, unless you choose to use Fair Use as an alternative. The TEACH Act is not a wild card exemption to do anything you want; it comes with limitations. 

Teachers have more privileges in face-to-face teaching situations for the use of copyrighted materials than teachers in online instruction. The TEACH Act attempts to bring the two environments closer together, but the playing fields are still not level.

The TEACH Act does not cover the use of textual materials such as readings. 

Provisions of the Act

The Act allows teachers to show the full performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or display the following types of materials (partial list):

  • a sound recording of a poem
  • a sound recording of a piece of literature
  • a recorded symphony
  • still images, photographs (these are considered "displays")
  • still images from subscription databases if allowed by license
  • text if it is something that would normally be "displayed" in a face to face class; not if it is something only to be read by students

Teachers may only display "reasonable and limited portions" of dramatic works. Use only the portions that are necessary to make a point. (Teachers in  face to face classrooms may use the following works in their entirety). The following are examples:

  • dramatic works
  • audio/visual works
  • musicals
  • operas
  • commercial films
  • music videos

Teachers may not transmit or display instructional materials, without permission or licensing, which students are commonly expected to purchase such as:

  • textbooks
  • coursepacks
  • workbooks
  • digital educational work (made for the purpose of performance or display for use in mediated instruction)

Works "produced or marketed primarily for performance or display as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks" should not be copied, but purchased and used as intended by the publisher.

Obligations of the teacher under the TEACH Act:

    • The performance or display is made by or under the supervision of an instructor.
    • The performance or display is directly related and integral to the class content, not ancillary like Reserves
    • The work is part of systematic mediated instructional activities
    • The "transmission is made solely for and limited to students officially enrolled in the course."
    • Materials that are used for performance or display must be lawfully made and acquired.
    • Instructor must use reasonable controls to prevent copying and retention of the work, those that would "discourage most users." (streaming is suggested for video; thumbnails, watermarks and disabling right click copy function can be used to protect images.)
    • A digital copy may be made from an analog copy when no digital version is available or when the digital version is technologically protected.
    • Work must carry a warning notice to students. Examples:


Must I use the TEACH Act when I teach online?  

No, you can choose to teach under the TEACH Act which carries more requirements or use Fair Use which carries more risk.

Can I digitize an analog video (i.e. VHS) to show it to my distance education class?

Yes, in an amount limited to what is necessary for the class, if:  

  • there is no digital version available to your institution at a reasonable price
  • the digitized copy is retained by the institution
  • if  it is used only for teaching under Section 110(2) critiera 
  • if no one circumvents technological protection measures to make the digital copy.

Can I reuse my materials later in the semester for the same class?

Yes, you can reshow or redisplay the content to support your curriculum later in the semester, even if you used it earlier.

Can I reuse my teaching materials in subsequent semesters in my online class?

If materials are integral to the course content and are used in performance or display, the materials may be reused without permission. Copies of these items must be made from a legally acquired copy of the work. Supplementary or ancillary materials and readings require permission or royalty payments.

Can I show a YouTube video to my distance education class?  

The best way to handle a YouTube video is to link to it. Using YouTube's embedded code for linking is ok also; it's just code and YouTube makes it available for users to embed. However, it is advisable not to show a YouTube video that contains infringing material. 

Does the Teach Act apply just to credit courses at Rockhurst?  

No, it can be used with non-credit courses also.

How Do I Use "reasonable controls" to protect images and performances shown in Canvas?

The best way to transmit film media in Canvas in order to be in compliance with the TEACH Act, is with the use of streaming.  For more information about how to stream videos, contact Computer Services (x4357)

Other suggested methods for protecting copyrighted images or photos include the use of low resolution images, thumbnails, digital watermarks, disabling the right click copy function, overlaying the image with a transparent GIF, using the image as a background in a table or using digital rights management. For details see "Tips and Techniques to Protect Images on the Internet."

When considering the use of media in online teaching, technological protection measures or digital rights management may come into play. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act carries strict prohibitions against overriding TPMs and DRM.

Institutional Criteria for the TEACH ACT

  • Must be an accredited, non-profit, educational institution or governmental body
  • The institution "institutes policies regarding copyright, provides informational materials to faculty, students, and relevant staff members that accurately describe, and promote compliance with, the laws of the United States relating to copyright, and provides notice to students that materials used in connection with the course may be subject to copyright protection."
  • The institution applies technological measures that reasonably prevent: 
    1. retention of the work in accessible form by recipients of the transmission from the transmitting body or institution for longer than the class session; and
    2. unauthorized further dissemination of the work in accessible form by such recipients to others."
  • The institution "does not engage in conduct that could reasonably be expected to interfere with technological measures used by copyright owners to prevent such retention or unauthorized further dissemination."

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