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Copyright: Fair Use & TEACH Act

How to comply with copyright in the classroom.

4 Factors of Fair Use

The U.S. Code does not explicitly delineate number of words, lines, notes or images that would constitute fair use or not. Consider the following four factors. If more are in favor of fair use, you can use the material in your class. If most factors fall under "less likely to be fair use" you will want to find an alternative, or reduce the amount you share.

The purpose and character of the use:

  • Nonprofit/educational purposes --> fair use

The nature of the copyrighted work:

  • Unpublished works --> less likely to be considered fair use
  • Out of print materials --> more likely to be fair use
  • Work tends toward artistic expression --> less likely to be fair use

The amount and substantiality of the portion used:

  • If you use 50% of the entire work --> less likely to be fair use
  • If you use the "heart" or "essence" of a work --> less likely to be fair use

The effect of use on the potential market for the copyrighted work:

  • The work has been significantly altered from the original --> more likely to be fair use
  • Who is the audience? Same audience --> less likely to be fair use

When to ask for Permission

Requesting permission

TEACH Requirements

The TEACH Act addresses digital uses of material for online learning. It provides for 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 requirements.

TEACH requires that the academic institution meet specific requirements for copyright compliance. For the full list of requirements, refer to the United States Code, Title 17, Section 110.

  • The institution must be an accredited, non-profit educational institution.
  • The use must be part of mediated instructional activities.
  • The use must be limited to a specific number of students enrolled in a specific class.
  • The use must either be for 'live' or asynchronous class sessions.
  • The use must not include the transmission of textbook materials, materials "typically purchased or acquired by students," or works developed specifically for online uses.
  • Only "reasonable and limited portions," such as might be performed or displayed during a typical live classroom session, may be used.
  • The institution must have developed and publicized its copyright policies, specifically informing students that course content may be covered by copyright, and include a notice of copyright on the online materials.
  • The institution must implement some technological measures to ensure compliance with these policies, beyond merely assigning a password. Ensuring compliance through technological means may include user and location authentication through Internet Protocol (IP) checking, content timeouts, print-disabling, cut & paste disabling, etc.
It is also important to note that TEACH does not supersede fair use or existing digital license agreements.