Distance Education and Copyright Law: The Limits and Meaning of Copyright Policy

39 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2010

Date Written: June 1, 2000


Written before enactment of the TEACH Act in 2002, this article examines the copyright law issues associated with the use of protected works in distance education. The expanding use of technology in education gives rise to new uses of materials, especially the digitization, uploading, and transmission of materials on the Internet or other networked system. The Copyright Act of 1976 included a provision specifically for distance education. This article traces the history of relevant law, from the expansion of copyright in 1856 to “performances” of works, through the legislative history of the distance education statute in the 1960s and 1970s, and to the recommendations for change from the U.S. Copyright Office.

Examination of previous law continues to offer important insights on current law, notably the TEACH Act, and the policies that underlie it. Scrutiny of the statutory limitations and exceptions for distance learning also reinforces the continued importance of fair use as an alternative means for pursuing the goals of education. The article concludes with a detailed examination of the larger policy objectives of the law and how they may be utilized in future revisions of the statutes.

Keywords: Copyright, Distance Education, TEACH Act, Fair Use, Copyright Exceptions

Suggested Citation

Crews, Kenneth D., Distance Education and Copyright Law: The Limits and Meaning of Copyright Policy (June 1, 2000). Journal of College and University Law, Vol. 27, No. 1, Summer 2000, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1579009

Kenneth D. Crews (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
310-556-4660 (Phone)

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