The best way to grapple with applying the TEACH Act's exemptions to online teaching is to think about specific instructional scenarios.
Remember: the TEACH Act simply facilitates some uses of copyrighted materials for instructional purposes without the need for permission or license. If you already have permission or a license to use any material, you don't need the TEACH Act.
The interpretations given on this page are suggestions based on a reasonable reading of §110(2) and related sections relevant to the TEACH Act. They are presented for informational purposes and should not be construed as a substitute for proper legal advice.
Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony
For a unit on Beethoven’s “heroic” style in the early 19th century, does the TEACH Act allow me to post audio files of some or all of his third symphony to illustrate my lecture points?
- It’s made from a valid, legal copy
- It’s instructionally relevant and is available only for those purposes
- It’s not accessible apart from the class website
- It’s not part of a compilation that is intended to substitute for materials produced in the educational market
The Complete Beatles, Scenario 1
In my course on The Beatles, I would like the students to have access to every song from every Beatles album so they can, if they choose, get a general flavor of the group in addition to the songs I specifically discuss. Will the TEACH Act allow me to post all of those tracks?
- Each song would not part of some form of directed and mediated instruction and available only for those purposes
- The TEACH Act exemptions do not include supplementary materials that are not part of direct instructional activities
The Complete Beatles, Scenario 2
In my course on The Beatles, my students will be responsible for selecting four Beatles albums throughout the semester and will write and share a short journal response to each album with the class. So, I would like to post every Beatles album so they can listen and make their choices. Will the TEACH Act allow me to post all of those tracks?
- Each song is part of some form of directed and mediated instruction, even if it occurs over some length of time, and is available only for those purposes
JSTOR and Other Library Databases
I found an article in JSTOR that I would like my students to read. Will the TEACH Act allow me to post it to my online course?
- Stanislaus State Library subscribes to JSTOR, so the TEACH Act is actually irrelevant.
- JSTOR’s terms of service allow for the distribution of the file in addition to providing stable links to authorized users.
Creating a Compilation
The readings for my course on politics and culture in Central America come from book chapters and articles that are not in our library databases. Will the TEACH Act allow me to scan and post those materials as a kind of “electronic reserves” or electronic coursepack?
- The TEACH Act makes no mention of “reserves”; it is for using materials in directed and mediated instruction.
- Articles fall under the “display” exemption and only amounts comparable to a face-to-face session may be displayed.
- "Displaying" a downloadable PDF article on a course website throughout the semester is not supported by the TEACH Act.
- Compiling these readings would constitute a substitute for students having to purchase a regular course reader (whether in paper or electronic format). This is not an exempted use under the TEACH Act.
Reading for a Specific Assignment
I have one article that I require students to read at the start of a particular assignment. It’s not available in a library database. Does the TEACH Act allow me to post a PDF of that article on Blackboard alongside the other materials related to that assignment?
- Articles fall under the “display” exemption of the TEACH Act and so only amounts comparable to a face-to-face session may be displayed.
Using for Lecture or Assignment
My students are collaborating on a course project to study gender representations of celebrities. I would like to include and discuss images downloaded from TMZ.com in my introduction to the project. Will the TEACH Act allow me to use them that way?
- The TEACH Act allows for the display of content, such as images, in amounts similar to what would be displayed in a face-to-face session. It's quite reasonable to display multiple complete images in a face-to-face session (perhaps as part of a PowerPoint), so it is quite reasonable to display similar amounts and kinds of content for directed instruction online.
- The TEACH Act will also allow students to post TMZ images that are directly part of the course project.
Using a Chart in Lecture
In my lecture on population changes in various ecologies, I like to illustrate a particular point using a chart published in a textbook. Does the TEACH Act allow me to show that chart in my online class?
- The TEACH Act allows for the display of content, such as images and charts, in amounts similar to what would be displayed in a face-to-face session.
Streaming a Complete Documentary
I usually show a documentary in my face-to-face class to enhance the unit on the solar system. Does the TEACH Act allow me to make the whole documentary available on my Blackboard site?
- The TEACH Act only allows “reasonable and limited” amounts of “other works” such as audiovisual works.
- The TEACH Act has no provision exempting uses of “fiction” vs. “fact-based” materials.
- Fair Use is the only option for justifying showing a complete documentary video or other dramatic audiovisual work for the first time by each instructor.
- Repeated showings of the work (e.g., in subsequent terms) cannot be justified by Fair Use and a license should be acquired.
Creating Clips from a DVD
I usually show a documentary in my face-to-face class to enhance the unit on the solar system. Does the TEACH Act allow me to make clips of the DVD available on my Blackboard site?
- The DVD is lawfully acquired.
- The clips will not be downloadable.
- Access is limited to enrolled students.
- The other requirements of the TEACH Act are met.
Digitizing Clips from VHS tape
Several years ago I taped a documentary on Russian history. My tape is getting worn out and I want to make some clips available in my online course. Does the TEACH Act allow me to digitize the VHS tape?
- No DVD version of the documentary is available for purchase.
- The other requirements of the TEACH Act are met.
Creating Clips from a Rented DVD
I teach a French film course. For the lecture and discussion of director Alain Resnais, does the TEACH Act allow me to digitize and post clips on my Blackboard site of his Night and Fog that I rented from Netflix?
- The DVD was (presumably) lawfully acquired by Netflix.
- The fact of its rental status is made moot by the use of limited portions as part of directly mediated instructional activities and akin to what is permissible in a face-to-face session (it is perfectly permissible to show a rented film in class if the requirements of §110(1) are followed).
- The new §112(f) introduced by the TEACH Act also allows the clips to be stored on a secured server and reused in subsequent classes.
Embedding YouTube (or Other Online Video) Clips
My students would like to embed (not just link to) relevant YouTube videos in their discussion board posts analyzing various commercial music videos. Does the TEACH Act allow this?
- YouTube allows embedding of any video that allows itself to be embedded.
- Embedding content is technically the same as linking it to it, which is allowed by the DMCA.
- The question of the lawfulness of the video content as it exists on YouTube’s service cannot be reasonably determined by an instructor or student.
Showing a Complete Performance of Shakespeare's Play
Ashland’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is really great. Does the TEACH Act allow me to post the complete DVD of their performance as part of an assignment?
- The video is a dramatic work so only “reasonable and limited” portions may be presented in order to qualify as an exemption under the TEACH Act.
- Although Twelfth Night itself may be in the public domain, Ashland’s production of the play is *very much* still under copyright.
Summary of Uses & Exemptions
The following table presents a basic grid of content types and the exempted uses that are possible under the TEACH Act.
|Content type||Exemption||Usage in theory...||In reality|
|Unlicensed article PDF||Display||Amount comparable to F2F session||None|
|Still image or chart||Display||Amount comparable to F2F session||Complete content is ok|
|Musical recording||Performance||Complete work||Complete works are ok|
|Audiovisual or dramatic work||Performance||Reasonable and limited portion||Clips only; no complete works|
Remember: the TEACH Act does not preclude using content under Fair Use.
Updated: August 25, 2023