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ESC Copyright Information Website: TEACH Act

I need a quick answer!

What do I have to do to use the TEACH Act?

  1. Use the TEACH Act checklist below to help determine whether what you intend to do is acceptable under the TEACH Act. 
  2. Make sure that the content is captioned with a copyright notice and information that identifies and credits the original source. You cannot use alt text for this! It has to display on the page.


The TEACH Act, passed in 2002, creates something similar to the educational use exemption specifically for online learning. The TEACH Act only applies to educational institutions that meet certain requirements, which Empire State College does

What are the TEACH Act requirements on a case-by-case basis?

  • The content must be used in a course that is part of the curriculum and requires enrollment. The TEACH Act doesn't apply to extracurricular activities, conferences, etc. 
  • The content must be instrumental to learning objectives. It can't be for entertainment or decoration.
  • The content has to be used in a way that is analogous to playing it in the classroom. In other words, it can't be self-directed supplemental materials, research, or homework.
  • The content must be legally obtained and legally acquired. 
  • The content must be presented with a copyright notice and a warning that it is not to be copied or redistributed. All pages within the LMS have a generic copyright warning, but you must also mark the specific content. College best practice combines that with a full citation of the source. The actual wording isn't important as long as it contains the right information and a full citation in a style appropriate for the subject area. For example, in a video caption:
    • This content is the intellectual property of Dr. Sue Nott of Columbia University. No further copying or distribution is permitted.
      Nott, S. [ColumbiaSue]. 2016, June 20. The Internet is Pretty Awesome [Video File]. Retrieved from: 
  • The content can't be any type typically created and marketed specifically for use by students, such as textbooks, anthologies of selected readings, workbooks, or the supplementary materials that come with textbooks. 
  • You can only digitize the materials yourself if they aren't already available for purchase in the format you need. When you digitize the material, you can only digitize the amount you are going to use for this course. You cannot break or bypass digital rights management technology (passwords, encryption, etc.). You also can't keep a collection of digitized materials to share across courses or with other faculty.

What does the TEACH Act allow?

Inside a course in the LMS:

  • You can post an entire, nondramatic, nonfictional work, i.e. a documentary, news broadcast, educational video, reading of a poem, or most musical works.
  • You can post clips of dramatic or fictional works, i.e., a movie, television program, or narrative musical work like an opera or musical. The exact wording is "reasonable and limited portions... comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session." 
  • You can post whole images of any size and resolution.

College-level TEACH Act Requirements

What are the TEACH Act requirements for the institution?

  • accredited, nonprofit educational institution
  • copyright policy compliant with U.S. copyright law
  • provides faculty, staff and students with information about U.S. copyright law
  • notifies students that materials used in conjunction with a course are subject to copyright protection.

What are the TEACH Act requirements for the technological infrastructure?

  • a way to make sure that the content is accessible only to the students enrolled in a particular course, and only for the duration of that course
  • a way to make sure that the content is removed at the end of term; the content can't be saved between terms, or stored for future use
  • ways to make it impossible, or at least difficult, for users to retain or redistribute copies of the materials; this may include putting audiovisual content on a streaming server, rather than putting the file directly onto the course page for users to download.