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The Graduate Health & Life Sciences Research Library at Georgetown University Medical Center

Copyright 101


The Technology, Education, And Copyright Harmonization Act established in 2002, was meant as a compromise between maximum protection and liberal rights of use. "It focuses on distance education, or the understanding of distance education as it was in 2002 and involves performances and displays of works in a manner similar to in-classroom education" (Crews, Copyright for Librarians and Educators, 83). 

This is a law that is much bigger than just a single instructor or classroom but involves the entire institution as it requires the presence of institutional copyright policies, the distribution of copyright information to the educational community, as well as implementing technological controls to limit works used (Crews). 

The TEACH act can only apply to a government agency or an accredited nonprofit educational institution 

The various TEACH act policies can be grouped into three categories:

  1. Institutional and policy Requirements
  2. Technology Requirements
  3. Instructional planning requirements

Institutional and Policy Requirements

  • There must be an institutional policy or group of policies regarding copyright easily available and distributed to educators
  • The institution must provide information materials regarding copyright such as resource guides or brochures to both students and instructors.
  • Institution must not engage in activities that would decrypt or otherwise interfere with measures already employed by copyright holder to prevent retention 

Technology Requirements

  • Instructors must do their best to limit the material usage to only those students enrolled in the course at the present time 
  • Technology must prevent work from being used beyond the class "session". There is no explicit information regarding a class session, however it is assumed a session would be for a "finite" period of time (Crews, 86)
  • In the case of digital transmission of work, the institution must apply technology that will prevent students from downloading, saving, or otherwise create multiple copies or retainable formats (Crews, 86)

Instructional Requirements: 

  • Must use passwords, watermarking or encryption on disseminated works
  • Label works as protected and provide notice of copyright
  • Interference with technological control measures violate both TEACH act as well as the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA (discussed below)

Instructor oversight:

An instructor seeking to use materials under the protection of TEACH must adhere to the following requirements (Crews):

  • Performance or display must be made at direction or supervision of instructor 
  • Materials transmitted need to be integral part of the lesson 
  • Cannot be materials specifically created for the educational market (Copyright Solution in the Digital Age, Lesley Harris)


What is the DMCA?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, enacted in 1998, is an amendment that attempts to update the Copyright Act so that it accounts for copyright in the digital age. The DMCA helps to protect the internet provider and hold the user liable for infringement when it occurs. As long as the internet provider follows the information below, it won't be liable for any infringement.

Some of the key elements of the DMCA:

  • Provides some protection to online service providers from liability for online infringement if conditions are met 
  • Makes circumvention of technology used to protected copyrighted materials a civil and criminal offense. 
  • Prohibits tampering with copyright management information

Requirements for Protection:

According to the Harvard DMCA Overview (2016), to fall within the protection of the DMCA, an internet service provider must:

  • Take certain steps when it receives notice that infringing material resides on its network
  • Adopt and implement a policy that provides for termination in appropriate circumstances of users who are repeat infringers
  • Accommodate standard technical measures that are used by copyright owners to identify and protect copyrighted works.

Online Service Provider Liability:

Libraries work within institutions, such as universities, that for the purposes of the DMCA are considered online service providers (OSPs).

Special Provisions for Educators:

According to Russell (88-89) Non-profit educational institutions that qualify as OSPs get additional protections. If a faculty member or student infringed, the OSP will not be held liable for that individual's actions if:

  • Infringing activity does not relate to instruction materials required for a course within the last three years 
  • Institution has not received more than two infringement notices against that person with in the prior three years
  • institution provides copyright information to its users


The purpose of this guide is to provide resources and information for resolving copyright questions. This research guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.