Copyright Policy-Computing Services - Carnegie Mellon University

Copyright, Fair Use and the TEACH Act.

Faculty and students are increasingly, developing and promoting online (electronic) resources for use with their courses or coursework. This trend raises questions concerning use of copyrighted materials in a digital setting.  To answer these questions, the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act  (TEACH Act) was signed into law in 2002. It clarifies the terms and conditions under which accredited, nonprofit U.S. educational institutions may use copyright-protected materials for organized instructional activities that are not in face-to-face traditional classroom settings.

The TEACH Act updates the copyright law pertaining to transmissions of performances and displays of copyrighted materials. It also provides the guidelines that Carnegie Mellon faculty, staff and students must follow when using copyrighted materials in digital or electronic format in non face-to-face instructional situations. The text of the TEACH Act can be found in its entirety at:

What is Fair Use?

Recognizing the need for educators to use materials for research and teaching, lawmakers authorized certain public and private uses of copyrighted works without the permission of the holder of copyright. Section 107 of the Copyright statute permits such copying under certain circumstances for news reporting, criticism, comment, scholarship, research or teaching, and allows multiple copies for classroom use under certain circumstances. In general, educators have the right to reproduce copyrighted materials where the use is reasonable and not harmful to the rights of the copyright owner.

Would “fair use” materials fall under the TEACH Act?

No, the TEACH Act is not an application of “fair use” with its restrictions on any continued reuse of the same materials. Instead, it is a version of the exemption for public performance in the classroom.

What is the meaning of "class session" (the length of time one may use copyrighted material according to the TEACH Act)?

The TEACH Act applies to any digital transmission as part of an instructional program, such as video, music or slides. It does not specifically define the meaning of a class session, but it is understood to be comparable to a "live" class period in which displays and performances may occur. As these displays and performances may occur repeatedly and for various lengths of time in a "live" classroom, it is understood that the occurrence and duration of such uses of copyrighted materials may also vary during distance learning.

While TEACH Act legislation does not explicitly define "class session," it states that displays and performances of copyrighted materials should be accessible only to enrolled students and only for the necessary length of time. This timeframe is left up to the discretion of the course instructor. It also suggests that the term “class session” should be given a relatively broad meaning and allow for repeated access to the materials during the term of the student’s enrollment in the class.

Requirements to use a Works in the classroom.

The work performed or displayed must be:

  • An integral part of the class session as determined by the instructor.
  • Part of a systematic mediated instructional activity.
  • Directly related and of material assistance to the content of the course.

The work must NOT be:

  • Part of a work marketed specifically for online education.
  •  Already available through alternative sources in a digital format.
  • Unlawfully or suspected unlawfully made copies of works covered by U.S. copyright law.
  • Over the limits permitted as a fair use.

According to the TEACH Act, can one make copies of audio, video CDs “as a backup”?

There is no provision in the Act to make copies as backup copies with the one exception under section 117 of computer programs.

How does the streaming video and audio server offered by MediaTech protect files as defined by the TEACH Act?

Faculty who want to make digital video and audio files available to their resident education course students have the option of having files streamed from the MediaTech’s Streaming Server. Streamed video and audio is a more secure way to share digital video files with course members, as it is not necessary to download the actual source file. Authentication is required prior to viewing, with access restricted to just students enrolled in a course. This authentication process meets TEACH Act requirements for a secure server.

Faculty may request hosting by sending email to Faculty who do not have the equipment to digitize and compress a file into the QuickTime or Windows Media formats, or who need additional help with digitizing and compressing files, may make an appointment with the MediaTech staff (412-268-8855) for assistance.