Posting Course Materials on the Internet - The TEACH Act
Posting course materials on the internet has become a convenient, inexpensive method to make the information available to students. Rather than making photocopies of an article or picture for distribution in a classroom or placing copies on library reserve, posting items on the internet allows anyone with the URL address access to the work. If the particular work is copyrighted, this practice could be deemed detrimental to the copyright owner who wishes to profit from sales of the work. Publishers have created a market for individual articles and view these articles as an individual work.
Because widespread use of the internet is a fairly new phenomenon, copyright issues in the digital realm do not have a large body of case law. In late 2002, the "Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act" ("the TEACH Act") was enacted that allows copyrighted materials to be used for distance learning purposes under very specific circumstances. Because the TEACH Act is limited in scope, it is likely that it will not be broad enough to address your needs. You may, of course, still rely on the fair use especially of you wish to make duplications of a work. In conducting a fair use analysis for online activities, keep in mind that web publishing may reach a much larger audience than distributing copied material in a classroom. Additional information on copyright issues in the digital age may be found here. For a discussion on the TEACH Act, click here.