TEACH Act Best Practices using Blackboard™

What is the TEACH Act?

On November 2, 2002, the "Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act" (TEACH Act), part of the Justice Reauthorization legislation (H.R. 2215), was signed into law by President Bush. This Act revised Section 110(2) and 112 of the U.S. Copyright Law governing the conditions under which accredited, nonprofit educational institutions in the U.S. may use copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright owner and without payment of royalties.

For full text of U.S. Copyright Law, see
(All quotations below are taken from this online copy of the law.)

Why is it important?
The law provides additional opportunities for using copyrighted materials for teaching and learning.

Specific technological requirements of the TEACH Act that are relevant to Blackboard™ :

In summary, if instructors and/or institutions wish to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the TEACH Act for using copyrighted materials, they must reasonably:

  • limit access to copyrighted works to students currently enrolled in the class;
  • limit access only for the time needed to complete the class session or course;
  • inform instructors, students, and staff of copyright laws and policies;
  • prevent further copying or redistribution of copyrighted works; and
  • not interfere with copy protection mechanisms

The language of the Act, and what it means:

(b) Exemption of Certain Performances and Displays for Educational Uses.--Section 110 of title 17, United States Code, is amended-- … [to allow] the performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or reasonable and limited portions of any other work, or display of a work in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session, by or in the course of a transmission, if…"

What does it mean?
U.S. Copyright Law has been amended to provide additional opportunities for using copyrighted works as part of the "distance learning" component of courses at accredited institutions, if the performance or display meets the criteria below. Blackboard™ can provide a means of distribution and display of these materials.

"(A) the performance or display is made by, at the direction of, or under the actual supervision of an instructor as an integral part of a class session offered as a regular part of the systematic mediated instructional activities of a governmental body or an accredited nonprofit educational institution"

What does it mean?
Use of copyrighted materials must be under the supervision of an instructor. Blackboard™ courses provide a course context in which the role of the instructor and the instructor's control over the materials are clearly defined.

"(B) the performance or display is directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content of the transmission"

What does it mean?
The materials used must be relevant to the course. This relevancy is determined by the instructor, and can be controlled by the instructor within the Blackboard™ course.

"(C) the transmission is made solely for, and, to the extent technologically feasible, the reception of such transmission is limited to-(i) students officially enrolled in the course for which the transmission is made; or (ii) officers or employees of governmental bodies as a part of their official duties or employment"

What does it mean?
Only students enrolled in the course should have access to the copyrighted materials. Blackboard™ provides straightforward methods for enrolling specific students in specific courses. These enrollments can be confirmed by officials at the institution, such as the Registrar, if enrollments are established in Blackboard™ through a standardized snapshot or other integration method that directly feeds official information concerning enrollments (including adds and drops) into Blackboard™ courses.

Note that the instructor must ensure that copyrighted materials are available only to students enrolled in the course, not guests or observers. This is easily accomplished by putting copyrighted materials in one or more specific course content areas and making those areas unavailable to guests and observers.

"(D) the transmitting body or institution-- (i) institutes policies regarding copyright, provides informational materials to faculty, students, and relevant staff members that accurately describe, and promote compliance with, the laws of the United States relating to copyright, and provides notice to students that materials used in connection with the course may be subject to copyright protection"

What does it mean?
The institution is responsible for educating its faculty, students, and staff regarding copyright. Blackboard™ can be used in various ways as a means of distributing information and policies. Courses can be created using a template that includes copyright information and policies as standard parts of each course. Batch or snapshot course copy processes facilitate using templates that include such information. Instructors can also inform students of the copyright status of specific pieces of content by including notice in the description of the content in Blackboard™ .

"(I) applies technological measures that reasonably prevent-- (aa) retention of the work in accessible form by recipients of the transmission from the transmitting body or institution for longer than the class session"

What does it mean?
The copyrighted materials should not be available to students after the class session or course is complete. The instructor can use the date availability option on individual content items in Blackboard™ so that the materials become unavailable to students after the class session in which they are being used. The instructor or the institution can also set the date availability for the entire course, such that the course and all of its content is no longer available to the students after the end of the course.

"(bb) unauthorized further dissemination of the work in accessible form by such recipients to others"

What does it mean?
The copyrighted materials should not be copied and redistributed to others. Copying and redistributing Web accessible content is a general characteristic of the Web which is not easily prevented by current technological methods. Therefore a "reasonable" solution for the instructor in Blackboard™ is to provide a warning in the description of the content that notifies students that copying and redistributing these materials is a breach of copyright law. Note that instructors are expected to use "reasonable" means to comply with the Act, not obscure, difficult, or expensive technological measures.

"(II) does not engage in conduct that could reasonably be expected to interfere with technological measures used by copyright owners to prevent such retention or unauthorized further dissemination"

What does it mean?
If the copyrighted materials have their own copyright protections built in, the users of those materials should not attempt to interfere with those protections. Blackboard™ does not provide any mechanisms that would interfere with copyright protection measures.