I'm trying to change the numbers in problems I write for examples I use in my class as well as assignments. However the problems are still inspired by the textbook. Are the problems sufficiently different from the textbook problems to not have copyright issues? There is also an issue of theorems and definitions. Authors of the calculus textbook certainly did not come up with these things. Is it OK to just copy them down in my lecture notes?

By the way I do share my lecture notes on Piazza and the course I'm teaching is multivariable calculus.

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    What about a set of references at the last page of assignment with a note saying "Many of the problems are inspired by The Text Book [1]".
    – Coder
    Jul 21 '17 at 12:55
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    @Coder That does not solve the copyright issue. If I distribute pirated music on my website, writing "these songs are taken from the album Whenever You Need Somebody" doesn't make it legal. Jul 21 '17 at 13:15
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    Some more context that is probably relevant: 1. What country are you in? 2. Are you using this textbook in class (i.e. do your students have their own copies)? 3. Is there a license agreement of any sort for your instructor's copy? 4. I'm not familiar with Piazza; are your notes available to everyone, or do your students need a password to access? In any case, you might get better responses over at Law.
    – 1006a
    Jul 21 '17 at 13:45
  • Using their problems in class is exactly what the textbook authors wanted you to do when they put them in there. Copying the problems and distributing them on some public website, however, is imo rather bad style, and could easily be a copyright infringement.
    – Karl
    Jul 21 '17 at 21:03
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    I'm in the United States. I do ask my students to read the textbook, My notes are only available to my students.
    – Ying Zhou
    Jul 24 '17 at 14:27

In the case of using problems from a text book, you would not need to worry about copyrights as long as you cite it (whether you change the numbers or not). It would be good to include a references section with the bibliography information of the book included in it.


Academic textbooks are generally meant to be reusable for educational purposes. Having stated the above, depending on the country and the copyrights explicitly mentioned in the textbook, you might have to obtain prior permission from the publisher or author. (Please refer the discussion in the comments for details)

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    "you would not need to worry about copyrights" - what is this claim based on? Jul 21 '17 at 13:30
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    Quotations are usually permitted by the copyright law of most countries, but then again using a massive number of problems from a text book and citing the text book doesn't sound like permitted quotations. But using 1 problem is usually fine.
    – juhist
    Jul 21 '17 at 15:04
  • @O.R.Mapper Text book problems are meant to be reused by the instructors to teach their students. Some of which also have separate instructor's solution book for the contained exercises. Never have I seen an academic textbook with a EULA which prevents it from being reproduced except for financial gain. Reproducing for credit will come under plagiarism and hence I added the note on citing it. There are many lecture notes available in the Internet. They cite the original source like "Adapted from XYZ by ABC".
    – Ébe Isaac
    Jul 21 '17 at 15:31
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    @ÉbeIsaac: Note that depending on what the relevant jurisdiction assumes to be the default case, the textbook would have to have an EULA that explicitly allows reproduction. Jul 21 '17 at 15:35
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    @ÉbeIsaac: Well, for instance, German copyright law says, on that topic: "The creation of copies of small parts of works, of overall small works, or of single articles published in magazines (...) is permitted (...) for supporting instruction in schools (...) at an appropriate number of copies for the number of participants in the class or (...) for exams in schools, and colleges/universities (...) Copying of works meant for use in class at schools is, in any case, only allowed with the explicit permit of the rights holder." Other jurisdictions ... Jul 21 '17 at 15:53

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