The Technology Education and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH) authorizes, for digital distance education purposes, performance and displays of copyrighted works that are analogous to the kinds of performances and displays of copyrighted works taking place in the live classroom setting.
Although this Act expands the categories of works that can be reproduced for distance education, the Act includes several additional safeguards to prevent the unauthorized use of copyrighted materials, including:
requiring the performance or display of the work to be made by or at the direction of an instructor as an integral part of a class session;
requiring reception of the performance or display of the work to be limited to students officially enrolled in the course for which it is made;
requiring transient copies to be retained only as long as reasonable necessary to complete the transmission; and
limiting performance of certain works to reasonable and limited portions.
Q: Does the TEACH Act allow us to use materials in distance education on the same terms that we may use copyrighted works in the traditional face-to-face classroom?
A: No. Section 110(1) of the U.S. Copyright Act applies to the "performance" or "display" of copyrighted works in the traditional classroom, and it is a broad and generous provision. It is brief and sets forth few limitations. These activities are not infringements of copyright: "performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction. . . ." The law does bar uses of audiovisual works that might be unlawful copies. Keep in mind that this statute allows displays and performances. It does not apply to making copies of any works. For that issue, you generally need to turn to fair use.
Q: If I properly include a clip of a copyrighted work in one "class session" as part of my online course, can students continue to access that session repeatedly throughout the semester or other term of the course?
A: If repeated access is necessary to meet teaching objectives, yes, students can access the session repeatedly.
Q: Can I use the same clip of the copyrighted work in a later class session?
A: Yes. Consider this example. I am teaching in distance education this semester. In September I used a film clip, consistent with TEACH, and I left it on the server for some short duration of a "class session." The students can no longer access that session. Today is November, and I want to emphasize a point and show once again the same clip. The TEACH Act does not bar the reuse of the same clip in the context of a second class session, whether you are reinforcing an earlier point or making a new point from the same work.
Q: Can my distance education course include a link to copyrighted materials available on another website?
A: In general, simple linking to authorized sites (like a public website) is not a copyright violation. Some concern might arise; if you have concerns about the legitimacy of the site where you are linking, for example. But in general, links are not a copyright problem. In fact, linking straight to a work on another website or in a database is often an effective means for avoiding the copyright concerns about reproduction and the like.