Copyright, Intellectual Property & Legislation in Distance Education

Bill Aims to Scale Back Controversial Copyright Act
On Wednesday, May 12, 2004, a number of consumer groups made their case to Congress to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The original language that was passed in 1998 states that "it's illegal to bypass technological copy-protection schemes to make backup copies of purchased work or to cut snippets of copyrighted materials for what has traditionally been called 'fair use'." This article published in the May 12, 2004 issue of InformationWeek discusses the current bill, sponsored by Rep. Dick Boucher, D-Va., and addresses concerns presented by those in Hollywood.

College Groups Challenge Copyright Office on Exception to Digital Copyright Law
Certain college groups and organizations are asking that a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, known as the "anti-circumvention provision" be revised. Details about the concerns of groups such as the Association of American Universities in regard to this section and suggestions for possible revisions are addressed in this December 20, 2002 Chronicle of Higher Education article.

Copyright and Digital Distance Education
The Copyright Office developed this site as a way to post all public notices, written comments and other copyright materials related to distance. A link to the Copyright Office's "Report on Copyright and Digital Distance Education" is also provided.

Copyright and Distance Education: Lawful Uses of Protected Works
Copyright law can either restrict or open access to materials instructors may want to use in teaching face-to-face courses or distance education programs. Kenneth D. Crews, an associate professor of Law and of Library & Information Science and Director of the Copyright Management Center at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis discusses acceptable and unacceptable uses of copyrighted materials and provides alternative that satisfy the requirements outlined in copyright law.

Copyright and Intellectual Property
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has developed this site that focuses on issues dealing with copyright and intellectual property. Resources are organized into sections covering recent copyright and intellectual property statutes & legislation, international activities, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty, Canadian copyright resources, information from ARL publications plus additional resources.

Copyright Concerns in the Age of Distance Education
Higher education has had to quickly develop procedures to deal with questions that have resulted from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. James H. Walther, a law librarian in Washington D. C. discusses several issues raised in many academic institutions and provides answers based on current copyright law.

Copyright Issues in Digital Media
Technology has been evolving at such a rapid pace that it is often difficult to keep up with the changes. This poses an extra layer of problems and concerns for those dealings with copyright law issues. This Congressional Budget Office paper, published in August 2004, examines a number of different topics including, (1) the current copyright debate; (2) copyright law and technological change; (3) copyright and the economics of intellectual property regulation; and (4) economic implication of prospective legislative action.

Copyright Issues Related to Distance Learning and Multimedia Development
Copyright Issues Related to Distance Learning and Multimedia Development is one of the sites found on the Regional Center for Distance Learning and Multimedia Development page. The links provided on this site are designed to help those developing materials for distance education courses and programs. Categories provided include general copyright information, distance education specific resources, multimedia issues and electronic reserves.

In the Copyright Wars, This Scholar Sides with the Anarchists
Siva Vaidhyanathan, an assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University (NYU), believes that the legal system may be putting a damper on cultural creativity. His new book, The Anarchist in the Library, which initially started out as a sequel to Copyrights and Copywrongs, addresses culture's need to exist in an environment of sharing in order to thrive. Vaidhyanathan's thoughts and opinions about this topic are presented in this November 19, 2004 article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Students Fight Copyright Hoarders,1284,65616,00.html
Students on a number of college campuses around the U.S. are forming Free Culture groups. These groups are designed to teach other students about copyright law. The various leaders of this group are finding creative ways to spread their message and prevent copyright from stifling creativity. More information about this group and their activities can be found in this November 10, 2004 article from Wired.

NOTE: One of the co-founders of Free Culture Swarthmore, Nelson Pavlosky, successfully sued Diebold Election Systems after the company misused the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to threaten Swarthmore students.

Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act)

College Media Group Cautions That 2 Copyright Laws Could Collide
This article from the March 18, 2003 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the possible conflict between the TEACH Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Slow Start for Long-Awaited Easing of Copyright Restriction
In November, 2002, President Bush sign the bill known as the TEACH Act into law. This law was designed to reduce the number of restrictions on the use of copyrighted materials in online classes. It appears that faculty have not taken advantage of this change because many say that the TEACH Act is "too complex and too vague." Activities permitted by this new law and the restrictions that also apply are outlined in this article from the March 28, 2003 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Links to guidelines published for the TEACH Act are also provided.

The TEACH Act: Finally Becomes Law
The University of Texas has developed a site for those interested in the TEACH Act. It is primarily focused on issues that affect educators, but librarians may find that it does not cover many of the issues in the Act that affect libraries. This site provides a checklist to determine if you are ready to use the TEACH Act. Links to additional information on copyright and intellectual property issues are also provided.

Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act)
The TEACH Act, part of the larger Justice Reauthorization legislation (H. R. 2215) was signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 2, 2002. This much anticipated act "redefines the terms and conditions on which accredited, nonprofit educational institutions throughout the U.S. may use copyright protected materials in distance education-including on websites and by other digital means--without permission from the copyright owner and without payment of royalties", and offers major improvements over the previous version of Section 110(2). This site outlines the standards and requirements established by the TEACH Act.

The Tyranny of Copyright
A group of students at Swarthmore College acquired 15,000 e-mail messages and memos in fall 2003 that were either leaked or stolen from Diebold Election Systems. Diebold Election Systems is one of the largest manufacturers of electronic voting systems in the U.S., and the e-mail and memos discussed flaws in the Diebold software and warnings that their network was vulnerable to hacker attacks. The Swarthmore students felt that the public should be made aware of these potential problems, and they posted this data on their Web site. After the data was posted, Diebold sent letters to Swarthmore officials accusing the students of copyright violations. The company demanded that the data be removed from the students' site and the college's server. This article, published in the January 25, 2004 edition of the New York Times discusses Swarthmore's reaction, Diebold's response, and the role the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) plays in this and other similar cases.

UPDATE (2/10/04): Diebold's actions against the students at Swarthmore College who posted materials on the Web about the company's software and network vulnerabilities may have backfired on them. Two students and an ISP have filed a lawsuit against Diebold for "abuse of copyright protections created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Additional details about the case can be found in this TechWorldNews article titled, "Activists Seek Damages from Diebold over Copyright Abuse." The article can be found at, and it was published February 10, 2004.

UPDATE (10/4/04): The U.S. District Court in San Jose, CA ruled in favor of two Swarthmore College students who posted an unflattering memo about Diebold, Inc. on their Web site. Information about this case and the ruling can be found in, "Court Rules for Swarthmore College Students in Copyright Case against Voting-machine Company." This October 4, 2004 Chronicle of Higher Education article can be accessed at (must be subscribed to the Chronicle of Higher Education to access).

University Intellectual Property Policies
ADEC, the American Distance Education Consortium, provides a list of links to various university intellectual property policy sites for U. S. and international institutions.

What Colleges and Universities Need to Know about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Many aspects of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) contain information of interest to higher education administrators and faculty. Casey Linde, a policy analyst for EDUCAUSE and based in their Washington, D. C. office, focuses on two points of note in this 1999 article published in CAUSE/EFFECT. The first point deals with limitations on infringement liability for "service providers", and the other one relates to the prohibition on circumvention of technological protection measures (TPMs).


**Additional resources on copyright and intellectual property can be found at


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Created by Sharon Stoerger MLS, MBA
©November 10, 2002

Updated November 23, 2004