"Why don't the laws that apply in the physical classroom apply in the online classroom?". The Copyright Committee is asked this question quite a bit and the questioner is usually asking with no small amount of frustration in their voice. It's hard to answer that question without editorializing about the legislative history of the TEACH Act but the short answer is that, as distance education began to become commonplace there was an effort to update the Classroom Use Exception that we as educators have always relied upon to give us broad latitude to display and perform copyrighted materials in our classroom to apply to the distance education classroom. There was great fear on the part of content owners that digital copies of their works in online classrooms would lead to wide scale piracy. Thus the TEACH Act was born. TEACH is nice, when it works, because it does give us the clarity to know that our use is legal. But it definitely imposes much greater restrictions on the online instructor than are felt by the face-to-face instructor.
Keep in mind, the only part of the law that really differs for the distance classroom vs the face-to-face classroom is the Classroom Use Exception. Online instructors still benefit from fair use and, in many cases, we can make fair uses of materials that would not meet the extensive requirements of the TEACH Act.
TEACH has a big long laundry list of criteria that must be true in order to make use of its protections. Many you can assume to automatically be true for classes you are teaching at PCC. These include:
The following are the criteria that you'll need to actively evaluate if you want to make use of TEACH:
PHEW! Quite a list! If your use and material meet all of the criteria above, congratulations! Your use is protected by TEACH. TEACH is great when it applies because it gives you the peace of mind that comes with knowing in clear terms that you are not making an infringing use. If your use does not meet all of the above criteria, don't despair! Your use might still be a fair use. Fair use doesn't always offer us the same peace of mind but it makes up for it by being a flexible and dynamic doctrine designed to support a wide variety of beneficial uses of copyrighted material.