Math and Science Questions for Sale

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  • Hi,

    I have a website in which students email me science and math problems (both purely mathematical and word problems) to answer. I do not use textbooks to reference solutions to them; all of my solutions are original. I type up all of the questions and answers and keep them in a database. I have accumulated enough that I think it would be beneficial to offer these solutions up for sale on my page. I have read both the posts by pencho and NetGreet and my sitation differs with respect to the fact that I have no means of knowing the origin of the problems. The students do not reference the problems that they send me; I do not go out any find problems myself. I do not intend on making a compilation of problems (I want to sell the solutions individually). I would like to know if I would be breaking copyright law and any suggests which I may use to correct any issues. I'd be happy to provide more details. Thanks!
  • I'm not a math or science expert, but it seems to me that the copyright implications for your question depend upon what type of problems you are dealing with. Facts cannot be copyrighted, so I wouldn't think that there would be copyright issues with purely factual equations.

    If there are problems that involve significant creativity, rather than just facts, copyright may come into play. I would imagine that any case would hinge on the level of creativity involved, and I'll have to leave that to you.

    If you determined that the problems were creative works, then the next step would be to do a fair use analysis. You could use the handy guide linked from the home page. This analysis would be necessary for any copies, regardless of whether you posted them to the web or not. Thus, if you copy a problem in order to answer it for a student, that could conceivably be a copyright infringement. Posting to the web does impact the analysis, though, and make it less likely to be considered fair use.

    In addition to any copyright issues, there may be other legal and ethical issues related to this practice, both for you and for the students involved.

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