December 11, 2002

Distance Education – New Copyright Exemptions

Holland & Knight Newsletter
Paul F. Kilmer

On November 2, 2002, President Bush signed into law new exemptions to U.S. Copyright Law relating to distance education.  Previously, unless the use of copyrighted material fell within the broader “fair use” exceptions to the law, most Internet-based teaching activities were potential copyright infringements.

The new exemptions allow for temporary computer storage and performance of nondramatic literary or musical works as well as “limited portions of any other work” and the “display” of works in an amount comparable to permitted use of such works in face-to-face classroom teaching.  The exemptions are available only when the Internet usage:

  • is made under the actual supervision of an instructor in the course of regular systematic instructional activities
  • by an accredited nonprofit educational institution
  • the performance or display is directly related and material to the teaching content of the course
  • the transmission is limited to officially enrolled students
  • the educational institution implements policies regarding compliance with copyright law and provides notice to students regarding those policies
  • the educational institution applies technological measures intended to prevent copying of the copyrighted content of a permitted transmission and further dissemination of the copyright works
  • the educational institution and its instructors do not engage in conduct that might reasonably be expected to interfere with any technological measures used by a copyright owner to prevent unauthorized retention or dissemination of a work

The exemption does not apply to use of works such as textbooks or course packs that would typically be purchased by students for their use and retention. 

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