Saturday, April 28, 2012

Copyright and Online Instruction

Something that has been a source of great frustration to me has been fixed by Congress.  In a traditional class, if you own a video, you can show it to your class.  But what do you do in an online class?  Until this year, you were out of luck.  Congress has passed the TEACH Act (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act).  It allows non-profit educational institutions to use materials in an online class in the same way that they would in a face-to-face class, subject to these rules:
the institution must be an accredited, non-profit educational institution
  • the institution must have copyright policies and must post a copyright notice on online course materials
  • the institution must have technological measures in place to support compliance with TEACH Act requirements
  • the copyrighted material used must be for a "mediated instructional activity "
  • access to the copyrighted material must be limited to students enrolled in the class
  • the material must be used in live or asynchronous class sessions
  • the material may not include textbook materials "typically acquired or purchased by students"
  • only "reasonable portions" of the original work may be used ("reasonable portions" is usually defined as the amount used in a typical face-to-face class session)

As I read this, if an instructor, or the college, owns a video, they can put that video, or portions of it on Blackboard for the use of the students in a particular class.  (Obviously, only visible to the students in that particular online class.)  

This is of some importance to me because in a traditional U.S. History class, I often use segments from the HBO series John Adams and the PBS Nova segment "The First Americans."  I would be tempted to buy the PBS series The War That Made America for my U.S. History class.  Similarly, I have edited a History Channel documentary about the Little Ice Age and a National Geographic special The Human Family Tree for use in Western Civilization.  (And yes, I own a copy of both.)  If I were teaching this class online, I would use these edited versions.

UPDATE: I first read this as a 2012 change to the law.  No, it was changed in 2002.


  1. I don't know how you feel about the musical 1776. John Cullum, as the delegate from South would be no declaration. It might help kids understand better why this curse has followed us into the Twenty First Century.

  2. I have not watched it in a long time--and I recall a bad taste in my mouth after watching it--too much like pandering to the desire to be entertained. Perhaps I'll give it another look.