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Copyright FAQs for Faculty


What is the TEACH Act and how does it apply to my online teaching?

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002 expands permissions for the use of digital audiovisual materials in distance education under certain conditions. Essentially, it allows you, under certain circumstances, to use works in a course management system like Canvas similarly to how you would use them in a face to face classroom. Specifically, TEACH allows instructors at accredited non-profit educational institutions to digitally transfer performances and displays of copyrighted materials exclusively to students officially enrolled in online courses when all of the following criteria are met:

  • The performance or display is part of a systematic mediated instructional activity, at the direction of or under the actual supervision of the instructor, an integral part of the class session, and directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content.
  • The copy of the performance or display being shared was lawfully created.
  • Technological measures are taken to ensure that recipients cannot retain or distribute copies of the work beyond the class session.
  • The instructor specifically informs students that course materials may be under copyright and includes a notice of copyright on the online materials.

The TEACH Act does not extend to textbooks, course packs, or other materials typically acquired by students for their personal use and retention.

Best Practices

1. Choosing Materials

  • When possible, create your own materials or use public domain, open access, or Creative Commons licensed materials.

  • Choose materials that support a defined learning objective.

2. Using Materials

A. Assess Your Use

  • Evaluate all usage of copyrighted sources to make sure your use is covered by either fair use or the TEACH Act. If not, you'll need permission from the copyright holder to use the work.

B. Making Sources Available

  • If you can, avoid making copies. Link to sources outside of Canvas rather than copying and pasting material or downloading a copy and uploading it to Canvas.

    • Only link to outside materials that you can be reasonably certain were legally obtained and posted by the linked site.

    • Remember that all linked materials must be accessible and ADA compliant.

    • When available (such as when linking to sources in the library databases), use permalinks to avoid link rot.

  • Or, rather than using external links, consider using this as an opportunity for students to practice their research skills. Provide the citation and let students gain experience using the citation to find the materials on their own.

  • When working with copies, make sure that the copies were created legally.

  • Provide only as much of a source as is needed to meet your educational objectives (for example, a short clip from a video, a single chapter from a book, a single article from a journal issue)

  • Restrict access to your course to individuals currently enrolled in the course, and remove access to the course or take down copyrighted materials at the end of the semester.

  • Avoid posting a work in subsequent semesters of the same class. Fair use favors spontaneous usages in which time limitations do not reasonably allow for you to request permissions.

C. Also Include

  • Attribute all work that is not your own to its original creator.
  • Notify students that the materials are copyrighted and that redistributing copies is a violation of copyright law.