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Copyright: Distance Learning Guidelines

Whether you are a faculty member or a student, it's good to know about the complex copyright laws in the United States to avoid plagiarism or using something illegally in the classroom.

Synchronous (real-time) Video Conferencing

Transmission to others of copyrighted materials is allowed based on the following guidelines:

  • The transmission must be part of systematic, ongoing instructional activities, and is directly related to the course content
  • Any work can be displayed and transmitted once without permission
  • Transmission must be received in classroom or location controlled by the educational institution
  • Materials must be legally acquired
  • The class may be recorded and retained 15 days with limited viewing, in a controlled environment, by students enrolled in the course.

Obligation as an Educator

1. Model responsible use of copyrighted materials for any students.

2. Apply the four fair use factors when considering copying anything.

3. Get permission to use materials when fair use does not apply.

4. Limit access to copyrighted materials in distance learning classes.

5. Use the Copyright Clearance Offices to acquire permissions for ANY use of copyrighted materials that do not have fair use protection.

Online Course Formats

The TEACH Act facilitates and enables the performance and display of copyrighted materials for distance education by accredited, non-profit educational institutions (and some government entities) that meet the Act's qualifying requirements. Its primary purpose is to balance the needs of distance learners and educators with the rights of copyright holders. TEACH applies to distance education that includes the participation of any enrolled student, on or off campus.

The TEACH Act:

  • permits the display and performance of nearly all types of works
  • allows the display of work comparable to face-to-face classroom use
  • restricts performance to "reasonable and limited" portions of dramatic works
  • allows you to digitize analog works as long as they are not already available in digital format or if they have protective measures that prevent transmission
  • instruction can be received at any location
  • allows the retention of the content and student access for a brief period of time
  • permits copying and storage that is necessary to the technical aspects of digital transmission systems
  • restricts the access of course material to only those students enrolled in the course
  • requires technological controls to prevent downloading, copying, and further distribution
  • requires the institution to be responsible for copyright information dissemination and controls for access and dissemination