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This guide is intended to help provide a general overview of copyright issues for SVSU faculty and students.


The SVSU Melvin J. Zahnow Library Copyright subject guide does not constitute legal advice. Resources and information included is for informational purposes only. 


What is the TEACH Act?

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002 was implemented to serve as an addition to the fair use exception. It was created in response to the growing rise of distance education courses and digital course management systems, which under earlier laws were treated as different than face-to-face instruction and had far fewer protections for instructors. 

The law was designed to try and level out the permissions granted to educators in the two settings, expanding the allowances in distance education. The new law specifically enables the performance and display of copyrighted materials such as images, video clips, or animations in distance education courses, provided their institutions meet certain criteria. These criteria include: 

  • The classes are offered by accredited, non-profit educational institutions; 
  • The resources are shared as part of mediated instructional activities, either 'live' or asynchronous; 
  • Their use is limited to a specific number of students enrolled in a specific course; 
  • They do not transmit textbook materials, materials that are typically purchased or acquired by students, or works that were developed specifically for online use; 
  • The institution has developed and publicized its copyright policies, specifically informing students that course content may be covered by copyright; and they have included a notice of copyright on the online materials; 
  • The institution has some technological measures to ensure compliance - beyond just a password. These measures may include authentication systems, content time-outs, print disabling, and copy/paste disabling. 

What the TEACH Act Isn't

The TEACH Act allows for instructors to display or perform copyrighted works as part of their courses under the above conditions. It does not, however, allow them to display: 

  • Electronic reserves, coursepacks, or ILL items; 
  • Items delivered through Commericial Document Delivery; 
  • Textbooks or other digital content provided under license from the author, publisher, aggregator, or other entity; 
  • Analog items that have been converted to digital without permission. 

These items are excluded, as they are not considered to be items generally 'displayed' in a face-to-face classroom setting. Most in-person classroom meetings, for example, do not display entire journal articles via an overhead projector - therefore, the TEACH Act does not extend the right to do so in distance learning environments. The act is not intended to supersede fair use or existing digital license agreements. 

It is up to the individual institution to decide if they wish to take the necessary steps to meet the requirements set forth in the TEACH Act. Only then are these protections implemented. 

TEACH Act Resources

Provided are a list of additional resources to help you determine if you have permission to use a work under the TEACH Act.