Distance Education Exemption (TEACH Act)

The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002 (H.R. 22157)—commonly referred to as the TEACH Act—revised Title 17 of the United States Code, providing a much needed technology update. A distance education exemption addressing "mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks" was added alongside existing Classroom Teaching and Fair Use exemptions governing the use of copyright-protected materials.

This section of the TILT Copyright Essentials guide explains current teaching, technology and course material parameters and conditions, as defined by Section 110(2), under which the display and performance of copyrighted-protected materials may be legally transmitted over digital networks. Please click on the following links to learn more about what is and is not permitted under the TEACH Act:

Course Material Parameters

To a large extent, the TEACH Act leveled the playing field between physical classrooms and online, distance learning environments. Defined under its provisions are the terms and conditions under which educators in U.S. accredited, nonprofit educational institutions may, without seeking copyright holder permission, digitally use and transmit copyright-protected intellectual property belonging to another.

What's Allowed

Providing that the applicable teaching and technology stipulations listed further down this page are satisfactorily met, the "distance education" exemption permits the digital transmission of the following course materials:

Displays: Copyright-protected materials that one would normally expect to see displayed in any physical classroom—including still images—may be transmitted digitally.

Performances: Entire performances of non-dramatic literary and musical works—excluding audiovisual works—may be transmitted digitally under the same exemption governing displays. Key word: Non-Dramatic.

All other works—including dramatic literary and musical works, audiovisual and sound recordings—may be digitally transmitted in "reasonable" but "limited" amounts.

What's not Allowed

Copyright-protected materials specifically prohibited from digital transmission by the distance education exemption are as follows:

To assist you in making a proper determination, try using the Copyright Use Checklist from North Carolina State University's TEACH Act Tool Kit.

Teaching and Technology Stipulations

Teaching Stipulations

Digitally transmitted materials must meet the following teaching stipulations for the distance education exemption to apply.

Technology Stipulations

Along with meeting the teaching stipulations mentioned above, certain technology conditions must be met as well.

To assist you in making a proper determination, try using the Copyright Use Checklist in the TEACH Act Tool Kit created by North Carolina State University.