Digital Copyright Law Could Increase Costs Of Your School’s Distance Learning Programs

Education Week, November 4, 1998, p. 1

Schools could see the costs of their distance learning programs increase as a result of a new federal law that redefines what constitutes “fair use” of copyrighted materials on the Internet and other digital networks.

How the provisions of the new Digital Millennium Copyright Act—which prohibits unauthorized use of copyrighted materials over digital networks—will affect your school’s distance learning programs is still under review by the U.S. Copyright Office.

Currently, “fair use” exemptions in existing copyright laws allow schools to use copyrighted materials for instruction via non-digital media, such as cable and broadcast television and other similar equipment.

The new law, however, makes no explicit exemptions for the digital transfer of materials over the Internet — a method many distance learning programs are increasingly using.

This means schools could have to pay publishers licensing fees every time copyrighted material is used over the Internet and digital networks, unless the U.S. Copyright Office and Congress clarify the law and grant an exemption for distance learning.

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