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Copyright and Fair Use

Online Learning and Technology

As the availability of web-based resources has grown, and we can easily scan, upload, store and copy such resources--not only text-based materials, but imagery and sound recordings as well---instances of possible copyright infringement become more likely and more numerous. The growth of distance education, in particular, "has accelerated the use of copyrighted materials on the Internet and in other networked systems" (Crews 67). To address the complicated copyright issues that are involved in distance education, Congress passed the TEACH Act (Technology, Education, Copyright Harmonization Act) in 2002. The TEACH Act revises Section 110 (2) of the U.S. Copyright Act by allowing instructors to use digitized copyrighted materials in distance education within certain limitations.

While the Fair Use Doctrine emphasizes the responsibility of the individual instructor, the TEACH Act recognizes that copyright compliance must also be the responsibility of the institution. The law requires that institutions use technology to prevent abuse of copyrighted materials by "limiting access to enrolled students," and "ensuring there are technological controls on retention and further dissemination."

In order to be sure, therefore, that you are adhering to Fair Use and the TEACH Act, your online learning courses or eClass pages should only be accessed via a password distributed only to students enrolled in these courses, and--once the course is finished--students should no longer have access to the copyrighted materials used in the course.

Kenneth D. Crews writes that the TEACH Act "offers benefits along with limits and responsibilities" (67). Unlike the flexible terms of Fair Use, the limitations in the TEACH Act are "highly detailed and are generally exacting in their definitions of allowed uses of copyrighted works" (Crews 68). For more information on the TEACH Act, see Distance Education and the TEACH Act from the American Library Association.

The Mount has developed a TEACH Act Checklist to help instructors comply with the more “exacting” requirements of the TEACH Act. The checklist should be completed and retained for each distance education course.

If you have further questions or are working with a more complicated scenario not addressed in these guidelines, please contact Cathleen Kenny, Vice President for Finance and Administration, 845-569-3210 or Cathleen.Kenny@msmc.edu, who is liaison to our college attorneys.