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Copyright and Fair Use for Faculty

Background of copyright and fair use for educators, with an emphasis on FAQs for using library and other resources in compliance with copyright law. This site is not legal advice, and the authors are not legal counsel to the university.

The TEACH Act in Academia

Section 110(2) of the U.S. Copyright Act,  known as the TEACH Act  , or the "Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act" of 2002, was enacted specifically to address the use of copyrighted materials in distance education or any other transmission of copyrighted materials.(i.e., materials posted on a server in connection with a traditional course).  To be used certain policy requirements must be met:

  • The material is under copyright protection and is not in the public domain.
  • Teaching taking place at an accredited, nonprofit educational institution.
  • Only enrolled students for the class have access to the material.
  • The institution must provide notice to the students that materials they have access to is protected by copyright.
  • The educational institution must have a policy on the use of copyrighted material, provide information resources for faculty advising them on copyright, and have technology in place that limits access to students enrolled in the relevant course.
  • Use is restricted to "transmission" of copyrighted material to students and is not relevant to a traditional classroom setting.
  • Material used is directly related to, and of material assistance to, the teaching content.
  • Only legally obtained copies may be used.

The TEACH Act does not apply to materials that are for students' independent use and retention. The law specifies that transmitted works should not be able to be downloaded or have copies made by students for later reference , and that they should only be available for a specified period of time.  Commercially available educational materials are also not covered by the TEACH Act; this would include the scanning and uploading of book chapters in lieu of having students purchase the item. Materials that are specifically marketed for classroom use for distance education are also not covered by the TEACH Act.

Copyrighted materials that are covered by the TEACH Act include:

  • Performances of nondramatic literary works.
  • Performances of nondramatic musical works.
  • Performances of other works "in reasonable and limited portions."
  • Displays of a work in the same amount as is typically displaced in a face-to-face classroom setting.



Additional TEACH Act Resources

Additional Resources

  • The Original TEACH Act Toolkit, UNC Charlotte: Use The Original TEACH Act Toolkit to help determine whether your copyright issue can be answered by the TEACH Act.  If your issue is not covered by the TEACH Act other options include whether it is covered by fair use or contacting a librarian to find alternative resources.