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Copying problems from books

  1. Jul 21, 2007 #1
    I always feel kind of scared that I am violating a copyright law when I copy problems from textbooks in posts even though I always try to paraphrase. However, this is not really possible when it comes to equations and is not really feasible with the more intricate problems sometimes.

    Does anyone know what the copyright regulations are for problems in textbooks? Is it illegal to copy problems verbatim?

    Is it illegal to just scan the problem and attach it to your post instead of typesetting all of that LaTeX?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 21, 2007 #2
  4. Jul 21, 2007 #3

    Chi Meson

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    Most of the problems in physics textbooks are about 100 years old (at least in the mechanics chapters). The same problems are recreated over and over. Even the new ones that try to be "fresh" (Jimmy downloads 8 pirated songs into his iPod, how many coulombs...) are the same old problems with new nouns.
  5. Jul 21, 2007 #4


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    :rofl::rofl: I have seen so many questions that are like that. Trying to make 100 year old problems new and cool just doesn't work...:rolleyes:
  6. Jul 21, 2007 #5
    Don't worry about it. Seriously. You only get in trouble with copy write once you copy like... over 1/4 of an article or more than a chapter in a book. And unless your making profit, no one's really gonna hunt you down about it either. A librarian would be the person to ask for details though.
  7. Jul 21, 2007 #6
    Oh man, I break the law when I copy math questions for later refrence!?!

    no0o0o0o0...is this really a serious question!?
  8. Jul 21, 2007 #7


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    Unlike everything else in existence:

    math cannot be copyrighted.
    (although according to US law I'm pretty sure it is, but no body cares)
  9. Jul 21, 2007 #8
    yeah, the RIAA isn't so much in business with anyone who writes text books. you shouldn't worry about getting into any type of legal trouble at all because of copy writing text books.

    some mentors here might give you s**t, but i don't think so.
  10. Jul 21, 2007 #9
    concrete mathematics by graham/knuth/patashnik is the only book i know of that gives the source of the problems. they noted that books of chess problems are really uptight about where they get their problems from & carried over the diea to their math text. like chi meson said, a lot of the problems in books are 100 years old or more, and nobody seems to care where they came from originally. (except graham/knuth/patashnik) actually i've wondered where problems came from, and what the original solver was working on at the time, since math texts don't usually relate the either the problem or solution to real life which is almost always where problems come from.
  11. Jul 22, 2007 #10
    :rofl: I'm in my chair DYING of laughter :rofl:
  12. Jul 22, 2007 #11


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    In the copyright law, there is language for the provision of 'fair use'. Copying a problem is 'fair use'.


    TITLE 17 > CHAPTER 1 > § 107 Prev | Next
    § 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode17/usc_sec_17_00000107----000-.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  13. Jul 22, 2007 #12


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    DO NOT try to paraphrase a question. It is not a copyright violation to write down a complete question verbatim from a text. Paraphrasing often leads to miscommunication.

    No, it is not illegal. Copying individual questions is definitely considered fair use.
  14. Jul 22, 2007 #13


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    Copying a problem from a book you own in order to ask for help on your homework to better learn a subject falls within the category of educational fair use, as has been mentioned above.

    What would NOT be allowed is someone asking for a complete set of homework questions copied for them, or downloading entire chapters of a textbook that have been scanned into a file online, in order to avoid buying the textbook themselves.

    We also have no problem if you wish to add to your homework question a citation for the textbook you are using, such as the authors/editors, title and edition, and chapter the question comes from. We don't require this, and it's not a substitute for writing out the question since not everyone helping with homework owns every textbook ever published, but for those who are familiar with the book, it might help them know what content you have covered so far to know not to go over your head with help. And the book publishers probably won't mind having their textbooks plugged.
  15. Jul 22, 2007 #14


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  16. Aug 27, 2007 #15
    i been looking for this thread! arghhh finally.
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