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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the TEACH Act

What are best practices for using copyrighted material in my course?

1. Attempt to obtain permission or a license from the current copyright holder. A documented attempt is required for ASU Online to proceed and use copyrighted material under its TEACH Act provisions. Please see the sample letter for requesting copyright permission.

2. Use only the portion or amount that is absolutely necessary to illustrate your point or lesson/learning objective. For example, not having time to pick out edit points for a video is an unacceptable excuse to request that the entire video be encoded. In order to be afforded protections by the TEACH Act we must follow the stipulations and specifically the aspect that “reasonable and limited” portions of digital material are essential to teaching lessons is used.

3. It is safe to assume that all material is copyrighted. Although normally copyrights are issued for 50 years (sometimes 70 years), recently copyright holders have been given extensions in certain cases. What falls in the public domain due to copyright expiration is a highly confusing and contested area. It is better to err on the side of caution with the idea that all materials have an associated copyright and you will need to seek permission or obtain a license for all material.

Can I show full length (entire) videos in my online courses using Fair Use and/or TEACH act?

No, under the TEACH Act stipulations “the performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or reasonable and limited portions of any other work” is required for exemption protections. In this case audio/visual media such as films/videos/tv shows/movies are limited to reasonable “portions” as directly related to learning materials and objectives. There is no percentage or time limit. The guideline that less material used is more protected is applicable. In other words, use only what is absolutely necessary to accomplish your learning point.

Please see this link for guidelines on film and video usage in online courses: Showing Films and Other Media

What amount or percentage of an audio/visual work can I use?

There is no defined amount of material that can be used from a specific work. The TEACH Act is flexible in that it allows for media usage in a direct correlation with teaching point or learning objective that you are trying to accomplish. Please use only the amount needed to reach that objective.

What is a Creative Commons license?

A Creative Commons license is a copyright license with usually some or limited reproduction and usage rights. Please see the various types of Creative Commons licenses.

Where is the best place to get images with a Creative Commons license?

Flickr maintains an excellent repository of images that are published with a creative commons license. Remember to be sure to attribute the image in the correct format as requested by the image creator.

Is there a recommended stock photo/image website?

ASU Online has used and continues to use on a needed basis as a stock image library where images can be purchased for a fee and used as needed in course materials.

What is the public domain?

A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.


– Works of the United States Government and various other governments are excluded from copyright law and therefore may be considered in the public domain.

– Works before the creation of copyright law such as the music of Beethoven or the literary works of Shakespeare.

– Sometimes works that are 50 years or older.

What if I don’t see a copyright notice on digital media, does that mean it is not copyrighted?

No, the absence of a copyright notice or symbol does not mean that the material is not copyrighted. If is a best practice to assume that all material is copyrighted and then research to find out who owns the copyright.

Who is responsible for obtaining copyright permission or licenses?

If you determine that you would like to use copyrighted material in your course, you (or your department) are responsible for obtaining permission or a license to use said copyrighted material. Any licensing costs are the responsibility of the department.