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Expanded Copyright (self-paced course)

Self-paced course for faculty and staff to learn the aspects of copyright law that affect higher education. It's intense - if you want something lighter, please go to the Intro to Copyright videos on Learnscape.

Exemptions for Online Learning

Section 110(b) of copyright law specifies educational exemptions for Online Learning that are kind of parallel to the face to face Educational Exemption, but much more complicated. Why so complex? Because the online environment allows infinite duplications without any cost or effort. In the online environment, there is no inconvenience standing in the way of flooding the market with free copies, so technical barriers are put in the way instead. 


The TEACH Act is a law that was passed in 2002, but has taken effect unevenly here and there because it only applies to educational institutions that meet certain conditions. SUNY Empire made the decision that we would meet the conditions so we could take advantage of the TEACH Act. If you also work at another institution, they may or may not be TEACH Act compliant, so don't be too surprised if you can do some things with copyright here that you cannot do somewhere else. 

What it allows

If you meet all the requirements, the TEACH Act allows you to upload large amounts of multimedia content into online courses in the LMS without having to ask permission or pay for it. 

Requirements of the Institution

To be TEACH Act compliant, SUNY Empire must:

  • Be an accredited non-profit educational institution (Yes. We are part of the State University of New York system, and we are accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.)
  • Develop and publicize copyright policies. (Yes. Here is our copyright policy.)
  • Use reasonable technical protection measures to prevent illicit copying. (Yes. We use Shibboleth authentication with CAS single sign-on, and the Desire2Learn Learning Management System.)
    • The definitions of "reasonable" and "technical protection measures" are not set out in the text of the law, but what we do is well within established best practices. 

Requirements that are handled centrally in the LMS

To be TEACH Act Compliant, SUNY Empire has to inform students that it is illegal to copy or distribute the copyrighted content that they have access to through their courses. This is handled centrally through posted notices in all online courses. 

Requirements of the course developers 

These are the case by case requirements that must be decided by course developers. You can ask for librarian help making these decisions too.

  • It must be multimedia content (image, audio, video) that the students will view within the course, not copies of textual materials 
  • If it is non-fictional, non-dramatic content, you can use as much as you want, including the whole thing. If it is fictional or dramatic content, you can only use excerpts sufficient to meet your learning objectives and no more. (For example, the whole Requiem per soli, coro e orchestra, but only two songs from Les Miserables.)
  • It must not be materials created for the educational market, which means textbooks, supplemental materials that come with textbooks or are provided by textbook publishers, etc. Avoid using the TEACH Act with materials from any of the publishers in the following long but incomplete list:
    • Cengage, Hampton Brown, National Geographic School Publishing
    • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    • Wiley, Jossey-Bass, Wiley Blackwell Publishing
    • McGraw-Hill, Entrepreneur Press
    • Jones & Bartlett
    • Macmillan, Springer, Bedford, Freeman & Worth, Sapling Learning, Hayden-McNeill Publishing, Palgrave, Pan, Nature Publishing Group, Digital Science & Research Ltd., 
    • Sage, CQ Press
    • Morton Publishing Company, Custom Lab
    • Pearson, Addison Wesley
    • Scholastic
    • Norton, Countryman Press, Liveright & Company
    • Wolters Kluver
  • It must be for a course that is part of the formal curriculum, which requires students to enroll. No one but students, faculty, and staff associated with the course will have access to the course. Students have do not have access to the course before or after the term in which they're enrolled (exceptions made for incompletes of course.)
  • It must be for purposes analogous to performing or displaying the media in a face-to-face classroom. In other words, you can't use the TEACH Act to give students access to content for their homework or research projects.
    • If you use flipped classroom methodology, here is how to reason it out: What matters isn't where or when the students do the activity; but rather, the kind of activity. The TEACH Act is for the content-transfer part of the instruction, not practice, application, or independent inquiry.
  • It must be directly related to one or more learning objectives for that course. 
  • It must be a legally made and legally obtained copy. Even if there is no way to purchase or license a legitimate copy, it is not permissible to break copy protection for TEACH Act purposes. If there exists a born-digital version of the material, that must be purchased or licensed even if you already own the print version. If there is no born-digital version of the copy, it is permissible to digitize a physical copy, but there can be no central repository of digitized materials to share among courses. 
  • The content must be labeled as copyrighted content, with proper attribution. Use the caption feature to do this. 

I can just hear you - "You expect me to remember all that?!" Nope. I've been doing this for years and I had to look up the details to be sure. You get a checklist.