3

I am going to teach a course in the Winter term and I have access to the solution manual provided by the publisher. Is it legal to share some questions (not the whole questions) with their answers with students?

5
  • 1
    What do you mean by "share some questions"? Writing the questions on the blackboard as examples during a lecture? Handing out photocopies of a page or two of the questions? Providing non-downloadable access to the solution manual? Providing a digital file of the solution manual? Jan 3, 2022 at 20:35
  • 1
    I am selecting some questions (less than 10 questions) from exercises of the book with their solutions and sharing them as a downloadable PDF file. If it is not legal, can I use the question but change numbers in the question and solve it by myself and share them with students?
    – Amin
    Jan 3, 2022 at 20:50
  • 2
    This may depend on the country. Jan 3, 2022 at 20:52
  • I live in Canada.
    – Amin
    Jan 3, 2022 at 20:54
  • If you assimilate the idea of the question(s), and redo/rewrite them in your own terms, perhaps citing that text as the "origin" of the (probably standard, well-established) ideas, I doubt that anyone would complain. "Fair use", probably. Jan 3, 2022 at 22:24

2 Answers 2

3

The legality is questionable, but note that copyright violations are usually a matter of civil law, not criminal. But what you suggest in a comment (electronic PDF) could be considered a form of re-publishing.

Some answer manuals (mine, for instance) ask that the answers not be given to students in any form. They are provided just as a guide to the teacher to ease course preparation. You should probably follow that advice even if it is somewhat stricter than the law requires (see below).

While you can quote short segments of a copyrighted work for certain purposes, the law is often designed to forbid copying that lessens the value of the original. Maintaining creator value is actually the purpose of copyright. And, letting solutions provided by the authors into the public arena will certainly lessen the value of the book in the future. (The book itself, not just the answer booklet).

The other issue with copyright is that you can't normally copy/republish a "complete work". But that doesn't necessarily mean a complete book. A diagram within a book might be construed as complete in itself and so can't be copied. I don't know whether a "complete" question with its answer would be construed that way, but an aggressive lawyer might make such a claim.

But there is a further reason for not doing what you suggest. Not only is it possible that your electronic version will spread further, but pedagogically your students are better off developing solutions themselves than reading the solutions of others. There is much less learning value in reading solutions than in producing them. And even if the students memorize the solutions of others, there is much less learning value and much less chance that they will develop any insight into their field.

Much better is to assign the exercises and give minimal hints when people get stuck. Not "do it like this...", but "have you considered...?" or even "This is where you went astray".

Students can be misled into thinking they know more than they really do if you make it easier than it needs to be.

2

You want to check with the publisher. To make this public or open access may violate the conditions under which you were supplied with the solution manual: it is certainly not recommended. I doubt you’d be fined or sued but the publisher could simply refuse to grant you access to current or future material if you violate their condition of use.

IANAL but to post this material behind a firewall where only students registered in the class have access is probably legal.

A workaround occasionally tolerated is to make the document “non-searchable” so that Google etc can’t index the contents of the document: this can be achieved in various ways (including rewriting by hand). The overarching concern is that if what you post is in the public domain then the textbook looses much of its appeal.

2
  • "IANAL but to post this material behind a firewall where only students registered in the class have access is probably legal." Copyright laws may vary and probably depend on the amount of content copied, but I don't know of any jurisdiction or situation where distributing the copy without a firewall would be illegal, and distributing it with a firewall would be legal. People do use firewalls for this, but mostly because it makes it harder to get caught, not because it makes it legal.
    – Stef
    Jan 4, 2022 at 11:06
  • Distribution restricted to a private setting, such as among your family and friends, is usually way more tolerant than to a public audience; but the class setting certainly doesn't fit that description.
    – Stef
    Jan 4, 2022 at 11:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .