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Copyright Essentials

An introduction to copyright issues for the NMSU community. This guide does NOT supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.

Copyright Online or at a Distance

Section 110 of U.S. Copyright Law discusses use of copyrighted materials for teaching purposes. The law originally covered only face-to-face teaching situations until the 2002 TEACH Act (Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act) attempted to address the use of copyrighted materials in distance and/or online settings.

What types of use does TEACH cover?

  • transmitting a non-dramatic work in its entirety
  • transmitting reasonable and limited portions of any other performance
  • transmitting displays of any work in amounts comparable to typical face-to-face displays

What do I have to do to use the TEACH Act?  

The TEACH Act includes a number of criteria for compliance including institution-level criteria as well as criteria applying to the specific educational setting. Unless all criteria are met, the TEACH Act may not apply. Below is a list of TEACH Act criteria.

Institutional Criteria--only non-profit educational institutions are eligible to take advantage of TEACH. Institutions must:

  • have copyright policies, provide informational materials about copyright, and provide appropriate notices about copyright protection;
  • use technological measures to reasonably prevent further distribution of and retention of copyrighted works beyond a class;
  • avoid dismantling any technological measures taken by copyright holders that prevent retention and distribution.

Educational Setting Criteria--performances and displays must:

  • involve only lawfully made copies of a work;
  • not include those materials primarily marketed for the purposes of distance education (i.e. an electronic textbook or a multimedia tutorial).
  • be a regular part of systemic instructional activity;
  • be made by, at the direction of, or under the supervision of the teacher;
  • directly relate to or be of material assistance to the teaching content (does not cover independent readings);
  • be made for and technologically limited to students who are currently enrolled in the class.

What if the TEACH Act doesn't seem to apply?

The TEACH Act does not in any way undermine or set aside fair use. Educators may always look to fair use if the TEACH Act does not apply to a particular example. For more information, see the Fair Use tab.

Even if you do not seek to use the TEACH act, it is highly recommended that online and distance educators follow these best practices when using copyrighted materials in a distance or online setting.

  1. Include a notice to students that the materials may be protected by copyright, are intended only for the purposes of the class, and may not be further distributed or retained. If you use the Library's Electronic Reserves system, we will include the copyright notices with your class materials.
  2. Restrict access to course materials to only those students currently enrolled in the class. Courseware systems such as Canvas will help you do this.
  3. Discourage retention and further distribution of materials by linking to or streaming resources instead of making copies. Terminate access once the class is done.

TEACH Act: Helpful Resources