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For those members who are involved in teaching, designing, or administering of distance learning courses, the following release from the American Library Association will be of interest.


American Library Association Release on Implications of the "Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act"

On November 2nd, 2002, the "Technology, Education and Copyright

Harmonization Act" (the TEACH Act), part of the larger Justice

Reauthorization legislation (H.R. 2215), was signed into law by

President Bush. TEACH redefines the terms and conditions on which

accredited, nonprofit educational institutions throughout the U.S. may

use copyright protected materials in distance education-including on

websites and by other digital means-without permission from the

copyright owner and without payment of royalties.

TEACH establishes new opportunities for educators to use copyrighted

works without permission and without payment of royalties, but those

opportunities are subject to new limits and conditions. The American

Library Association joined with numerous other associations and groups

representing educators, librarians, and academic administrators to

negotiate the language of the TEACH Act and to vigorously support its

passage. The process of drafting the TEACH Act necessarily reflected

the views of diverse interests, and some terms we would like to have

seen in the law met with strong opposition from copyright owners

concerned about protecting their creations and preventing widespread

threats to their markets. On the other hand, the ALA and many other

library and education groups were successful in adding many provisions

in the bill that can significantly enhance distance education.

To put the complexity of the issue in perspective, we need to grasp not

only the growth of distance education, but also the magnitude of the

copyright concerns at stake. Many materials that educators use in the

classroom and in distance education are protected by copyright law.

Copyright protection applies to most text, videos, music, images, motion

pictures, and computer software; protection usually applies even if the

work lacks a copyright notice and is not registered with the U.S.

Copyright Office. Unless the work is in the public domain, or you have

permission from the copyright owner, or you are acting within fair use

or one of the specific, statutory exceptions, your copying, digitizing,

uploading, transmitting, and many other uses of materials for distance

education may constitute infringement.

Previous law did include such a statutory exception for the benefit of

distance education, but it was enacted in 1976 and has failed to meet

modern needs. That statute (Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act)

generally encompassed closed-circuit television transmissions, and it

could not foster robust and innovative and digital educational programs

that might reach students at home, at work, or at any other location.

The TEACH Act repeals that statute and replaces it with a more complex,

but more beneficial, revision of Section 110(2) and related provisions.

Among the benefits of the TEACH Act for distance education are an

expansion of the scope of materials that may be used in distance

education; the ability to deliver content to students outside the

classroom; the opportunity to retain archival copies of course materials

on servers; and the authority to convert some works from analog to

digital formats. On the other hand, the TEACH Act conditions those

benefits on compliance with numerous restrictions and limitations.

Among them are the need to adopt and disseminate copyright policies and

information resources; implementation of technological restrictions on

access and copying; adherence to limits on the quantity of certain works

that may be digitized and included in distance education; and use of

copyrighted materials in the context of "mediated instructional

activities" akin in some respects to the conduct of a traditional


Therefore, to secure full benefits of the law, educators and their

colleges, universities, schools, and other qualified institutions will

need to take deliberate and careful steps. Full implementation will

likely involve participation by policymaking authorities, technology

officials, and instructional faculty. Librarians will invariably be

closely involved as they make their collections and other resources

available to students at remote locations. Moreover, you will most

assuredly need to consult legal counsel at your institution to be

certain you are properly implementing the new law's provisions.

To help with this effort throughout the country, the American Library

Association is launching an initiative to provide guidance and to help

interested persons so that they may better understand the new law and

implement its requirements. Please watch for developments at this

dedicated website: We have

posted and will continue to update summaries and explanations of the

law, together with guidance and other information to help the community

enjoy the advantages of the new law and to strengthen innovative

educational programs through the sharing of important information


Moreover, we will take this opportunity for a fresh examination of the

more general law of "fair use" as applied to distance education. Fair

use was, and remains, a vital alternative whenever a more specific

statute-such as Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act-fails to meet your

needs. However, fair use also has limits. In the meantime, you can

find a great deal of information about fair use on numerous websites,

and in many books, including some copyright publications available from

the ALA at

We welcome your comments and observations at any time about this

project. For more information, contact Carrie Russell, Copyright

Specialist at ALA's Office for Information Technology Policy, or (800) 941-8478.

excerpted from:

American Library Association Washington Office Newsline

Volume 11, Number 87

November 4, 2002

Citation: , " What You Need to Know About the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act) Law," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Jan 2006]. Online:


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