Online Learning

Can I share a work (video, image, audio, etc.) over the Internet for teaching purposes?

The rules for transmitting video, images, and other works over digital networks for educational purposes are complex, but under Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act, a digital transmission of a work may be permissible if:

  • The work is not one that was made and marketed primarily for distance learning;
  • The work is being displayed or performed at the direction of or under the actual supervision of an instructor and is being transmitted by an accredited nonprofit educational institution;
  • The work was lawfully made and acquired, or the institution transmitting the work had no reason to believe the work was not lawfully made and acquired;
  • The transmission is made as an integral part of a class session that is offered as part of regular instructional activities of the institution;
  • The transmission includes the performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work, or “reasonable and limited” portions of any other work, or a display of a work in an amount comparable to what is typically displayed in a live classroom session;
  • The performance or display of the work is directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content; and
  • The transmission is, to the extent technologically feasible, limited to students officially enrolled in the class.

In addition, the educational institution must comply with the following:

  • Have in place copyright policies and informational materials to describe and promote compliance of copyright law;
  • Provide students with notice that course materials may be subject to copyright;
  • Apply technical measures to reasonably prevent retention and further sharing of the work; and
  • Abstain from engaging in conduct that could reasonably be expected to interfere with technological measures the copyright holder has employed to prevent retention or unauthorized sharing of the work.

In some situations, copies of a work may be made in order transmit or perform the work under the conditions set out in the TEACH Act. These conditions are set out in Section 112(f) of the U.S. Copyright Act.

  • For works already in digital form, copies must be retained and used solely by the institution that made them and solely for transmissions made under 110(1). No further copies may be made.
  • Works in analog form may be converted to a digital format if no digital version is available to the institution or the digital version that is available is subject to technological protection measures that prevents its use under 110(2). Copies must be retained and used solely by the institution that made them and solely for transmissions made under 110(1). No further copies may be made.

Our handout, Using material in distance learning: A guide to 110(2) (the TEACH Act), can help you work through these various requirements to determine whether your use may qualify for this exception. 

What about copying clips or short portions of movies to make compilations for online teaching purposes? 

Most commercially available DVDs and Blu-ray discs are protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies that prevent a user from accessing or copying the video. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) prohibits the breaking of these various technological protection measures. Every three years, however, the Librarian of Congress identifies classes of copyrighted works that may be exempt from this anti-circumvention rule.

These exemptions permit users to circumvent technological protection measures in order to make non-infringing uses of the work. Exemptions are only valid for a three year period, after which a new rulemaking process determines the new exemptions that will be valid for the next three years.

In 2018, an exemption to the DMCA anti-circumvention rule was granted for the circumvention of limited types of technological protection measures places on DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and digital transmissions of motion pictures. This exemption permits college or university faculty and students to circumvent technological protection measures in order to make short portions of a motion picture for purposes of criticism, comment, teaching, or scholarship. Short portions of motion pictures may also be used by faculty in MOOCs, but additional restrictions apply. You may read more about the exemptions on our blog post, "2018 DMCA Section 1201 Exemptions Announced."

A summary of all of the most recent exemptions can be found here

Why does the TEACH Act have so many requirements? 

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2001 (the TEACH Act) amended Section 110 of the U.S. Copyright law in order to facilitate the growth of digital distance learning. The goal of the TEACH Act is to permit the use materials in an online setting similar to the way materials are permitted to be used in a face-to-face classroom setting. The many restrictions that are in place with the TEACH Act are designed to mimic a traditional classroom setting where students can see or hear the works, such as a film being shown or an image being projected, allowing students and instructors to benefit from advanced digital technologies while still safeguarding the rights of copyright owners.

In a traditional face-to-face- classroom setting, students are able to access and experience materials works during a class period, but their access to these materials ends when they walk out of the classroom. Duplicating this experience in a digital environment can make things trickier because technology makes it much easier to provide access to copyrighted works to larger groups of people (beyond just students enrolled in a class) and it makes it easier to facilitate the ongoing copying and sharing of those copyrighted works. With a click of a few buttons, a work may be shared openly online. This possibility creates new fears for copyright owners and is the driving force behind the many requirements provided in the TEACH Act.  

What if I can't meet all the requirements of the TEACH Act?

If you cannot meet all the requirements of the TEACH, you may consider if your use of the work is a fair use. If you are unable to make a strong argument that your use is a fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner to use the work. 

Resources for online learning:

DISCLAIMER: The information on these web pages and that received from Copyright Services at The Ohio State University Libraries and the Health Sciences Copyright Coordinator is not legal advice, nor is either office legal counsel to the university or any members of the university community.