Copyright Guidance for Distance Learning for Music Educators

Copyright Guidance for Distance Learning for Music Educators


How Does the TEACH Act Help with Virtual Music Education
during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

As music educators across the country are engaging in distance learning this fall, it is important that they understand the copyright laws in this environment. The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act provides certain protections for music education while distance learning. NAfME, in collaboration with the NFHS, has created a new resource to help teachers better understand the copyright implications of using music in a distance learning environment, providing analysis on the TEACH Act, as well as addressing some frequently asked questions in this space.

copyright guidance

Copyright law acknowledges that certain education exemptions are necessary to allow certain uses of copyrighted material in a classroom setting. The TEACH Act extends a similar exemption for distance learning. Transmission of materials must be made solely for and, to the extent “technologically feasible,” limited to enrolled students.

The TEACH Act permits performance or display of a musical work during distance learning comparable to that which is typically displayed during a live classroom session. So, while virtual learning is a new way of teaching for many, some similar rules apply for copyrighted materials:

  • If a work was not purchased, then you should not use it.
  • Only distribute materials to students for whom you have paid for the materials.
  • Just because a work is available online and free does not mean that work is a legal copy.

General guidance for distance learning:

  • You may replicate purchased physical or digital products that you have purchased for whole class instruction.
  • Digital usage of purchased physical products is permitted provided you control the distribution to only the same students for whom you have purchased the physical product. Digital distribution cannot replace purchasing music, but you may distribute purchased music digitally.
  • If a digital version of the work is already available, then an analog copy cannot be converted for educational use.
  • Demonstration recordings, rehearsal tracks, and student recordings may be created and distributed provided you control the distribution to only the students registered for the class.
  • Use of purchased sheet music examples in online learning videos is permitted when used as an extension of whole class instruction. Videos should be available only to your class and not shared with others.
  • Any digitization of physical materials should include the relevant copyright information. Always inform students about the proper way to handle copyrighted works transmitted to them.
  • A work produced or marketed primarily for performance or display as part of mediated instructional activities via digital networks is not covered.

For more details and “Frequently Asked Questions” on distance learning for music educators, please read this new NAfME-NFHS guidance.

distance learning guidance