ARCHIVED: Issue Brief - S. 487, The Technology, Education And Copyright Harmonization Act Of 2001

  • Bookmark and Share

The American Association of Law Libraries
Washington Affairs Office
AALL Issue Brief
July 2001
S. 487 The Technology, Education And
Copyright Harmonization Act Of 2001



Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act was enacted in 1976 to provide an exemption so that certain performances and displays of copyrighted works connected to classroom instruction would be permitted without the need to obtain a license or rely on fair use. Since that time, technology has changed dramatically and there has been general agreement that Sec. 110(2) should be updated for the digital age. There was much discussion about distance education in Congress when debate centered on provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998 (P.L. 105-304). Rather than include a new exemption for distance education at that time, Congress directed the Copyright Office to consult with representatives of copyright owners, non-profit educational institutions, and non-profit libraries and archives, and to submit a study to Congress with "recommendations on how to promote distance education through digital technologies, including interactive digital networks, while maintaining an appropriate balance between the rights of copyright owners and the needs of users of copyrighted works."

The Copyright Office subsequently held a series of meetings and public hearings and in May 1999 issued their Report on Copyright and Digital Distance Education. The report recommended updating the current copyright law exemptions for distance education and at the same time building in adequate safeguards to respond to the concerns of copyright owners. At the beginning of the 107th Congress, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) agreed to introduce a distance education bill as one of their top priorities for the committee this year.

They cosponsored S. 487, the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2001 (the "TEACH Act") based on the recommendations of the Copyright Office. This spring there were intense negotiations between copyright owners and the education, library and archive communities that resulted in a balanced distance education bill that, according to Chairman Hatch, "promotes the use of high technology in education, such as distance learning over the Internet, while maintaining appropriate incentives for authors."

On June 7, 2001 the "TEACH Act" passed the Senate by unanimous consent and was referred to the House for consideration by the Judiciary Committee. The Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property held a hearing on S. 487 on June 27, 2001.

The "TEACH Act" amends Sec. 110(2) of the Copyright Act by:


  • Expanding the permitted uses currently available for instructional broadcasting to include the performance of any work (not produced primarily for instructional use) in "reasonable and limited" portions;


  • Eliminating the requirement of a physical classroom and the limitation to students with disabilities and special circumstances;


  • Clarifying that the instructional activities exempted in Sec. 110(2) apply to digital transmissions as well as analog;


  • Permitting a limited right to reproduce and distribute transient copies created as part of the automated process of digital transmissions; and,


  • Providing safeguards for copyright owners, by requiring the institutions using the exemption to promote compliance with copyright law and to apply technological measures to prevent unauthorized access and uses.


The "TEACH Act" also amends Sec. 112 of the Copyright Act by:


  • Permitting an institution to upload a copyrighted work onto a server to be later transmitted to students in accordance with Section 110; and,


  • Providing safeguards against retention or distribution of the copies other than as needed to accomplish the permitted instruction and against interference with technological measures used by the copyright owner.



We expect the House to move quickly on S. 487 but we need your help. Please contact your House representative and urge him/her to support this important legislation.

AALL Contact:

Mary Alice Baish
Associate Washington Affairs Representative