Modification of questions

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  • If i refer to a word problem in a copyrighted book owned by me (say maths for instance) and create another similar word problem (with different situation but same methodology of solving), would it be a breach of copyright law? Also while creating simple word problems i guess a chance of such word problems being already created by some person in the world. Would it be infringement if I publish my work without having a knowledge of a similar work in existence already? If yes, how to go about while creating questions?

    Advance thanks
  • Vinush,

    Copyright protects a specific expression, but not the idea underlying the expression. So, for example, the idea of asking a student to calculate the meeting time for two trains going in opposite directions at different speeds can not be copyrighted. What could be copyrighted is the specific way in which a particular math professor or author devises the problem and how it is expressed.

    If you do create a problem that looks like someone else's, you could be challenged by another individual who authored a similar problem, in spite of your purported ignorance or intention. So you will need to think about how to make your problems unique and perhaps document your efforts to examine other math authors' works before devising your own.
  • To be eligible for copyright protection, a work must have a minimal amount of original creativity. The examples above, in my individual opinion, skate that line, but some may argue they are copyright-worthy. In general, questions in textbooks and problem sets are copyrightable.

    You may wish to refer to the Copyright code itself for further illumination on what works are eligible for copyright protection. The pertinent section of the law is Title 17 Section 102a, available online as

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