I'm writing lecture notes for one of my exams, both as a process to learn the subject well and to be able to share it with other students later. The official lecture notes are just slides and are really vague, would be/is of no help for anybody who didn't attend the classes (like me).

There is a huge book that describes many things I'd need to know for the exam. I'd like to know how much I could quote from the original book for my the lecture notes that I'd later make available online. I would not sell my lecture notes. I'd, of course, cite everything to the best of my knowledge.

I'd like to share the final PDF with other students after I finished the university (in a couple of months). I even thought about sharing the TeX source with the professor, so he (or his students in the future) can keep the lecture notes up to date.

The original books are +2K pages, my work would be around 30-50 pages, tops, with many other sources, if that makes a difference.


1 Answer 1


There aren't bright line rules in the area of fair use (which is the core issue - you are clearly copying a work that has copyright protected portions, at least - the question is whether fair use provides a defense and whether some portions are not copyright protected).

This inquiry is fact specific and driven by general standards. Context such as whether the use would be free or commercial matter as well.

For your own notes, anything goes pretty much. This generally wouldn't constitute "publication" of the work and would be for personal educational used by someone who paid for the book anyway.

For shared notes - it depends. Also not all kinds of copying is created equal. Some parts of textbooks are themselves in the public domain or not protectable by copyright. For example, even a lengthy quote from a scientific journal article would probably be allowed with attribution.

It would also be easier to evaluate based upon the type of textbook. A history textbook can have protection similar to trade non-fiction and can have very original exposition. An algebra textbook, less so.

Your question also points to an end run. If the professor is the author of the textbook (many of mine were in something of a racket), you could get permission from the author.

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