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Short Version

I have several books of programming exercises that I am working through. I would like to post some of my solutions to Code Review. Can I include problem statements along with my solutions without running afoul of copyright law?

Longer Version

Most of each post would be my own work, but I would be including the statement of the problem/exercise from a book. My understanding of fair use is that if I were to do this for a single question/exercise then that would constitute fair use. However if I were to write my own solutions manual which included all of the exercises/problem-statements from the the book then that may violate fair use. Assuming that's an accurate description, I'm still unclear on whether or not posting all (or a significant number) of the questions from a single book to Code Review would violate fair use, since they wouldn't form a single document.

Is the number of such posts I make a factor when determining fair use? Could I post every question statement or would that be going too far? Does the fact that the questions are posted to the same site (StackExchange) mean that they can be considered as a single collection?

References

I posted an almost identical version of this question to the Code Review Meta site, but asking whether or not this would violate their posting policy:

Can I include problem statements when posting exercise solutions to Code Review? (without violating site policy)

Here is a related post from the Academia StackExchange:

Is it acceptable to take some exercises directly from the text book when preparing exercise sheets?

  • Posting solutions to problems from exercise books might very well be against the rules of the codereview website. – gnasher729 May 10 '18 at 7:18
  • @gnasher729 I don't think it violates any rules, but I posted a question just to make sure: codereview.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/8827/… – igal May 10 '18 at 15:37
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    @gnasher729 Posting the code from a book would be against the rules, but posting the original problem description is encouraged. – Simon Forsberg May 10 '18 at 17:05
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I am not a lawyer. I am not your lawyer.

If all concerned parties are American, this is a textbook example of fair use and you do not violate copyright by posting excerpts from the book to discuss what is essentially your commentary on them.

My understanding of fair use is that it's somewhat fuzzy and relies on a number of tests to gauge the nature of the use rather than a fixed set of requirements, which might be more easily gamed. Some of the tests which you might be subjected to if your use were to be checked for infringement might include:

  • is what was taken an insignificant amount of the entire work?
  • is reference made to the original work?
  • is your work transformative, changing the original into something new?
  • is your purpose non-commercial, that is, not one aimed at deriving directly related economic benefits?

If you can safely answer "yes" to all of the above, you're safe. If the below is your plan, you are not:

  1. Post all questions from the exercises
  2. Posted questions do not reference the source text.
  3. You post the bare questions, maybe even just cropped scans of the pages.
  4. Your goal is to collect community answers and scrape them together in "Crazy igal's Cheat Sheet Companion" and then get rich selling copies to lazy teenagers
  • I'm most asking about the first point. Suppose I post a majority of the problems, but I post each problem as a separate question. Does that violate the condition regarding a significant amount of the entire work? Does it matter that the content isn't all posted on the same page? – igal May 9 '18 at 5:11
  • @igal Like I said, I think there are multiple tests that, taken together, are used subjectively to determine cases on a case-by-case basis. Posting all questions or a significant fraction of them would tend to make it look like infringement. Proper attribution in the postings, plenty of your own work trying to solve it, possibly even your rephrasing of the original, and your genuine non-commercial interest would all be factors tending to make it look like fair use. – Patrick87 May 9 '18 at 5:16
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    Whether you "reference" the original work is not relevant to determining fair use. It is not one of the four factors. The factor you did not mention is the "nature of the copyrighted work." Basically, if it is a factual work, you have more leeway for copying. If you copy portions of something like song lyrics, you have less leeway. – Brandin May 9 '18 at 9:40
  • @Brandin Most of each post would be my own work, but I would be including the statement of the problem/exercise from a book. My understanding of fair use is that if I were to do this for a single question/exercise then that would constitute fair use. However if I were to write my own solutions manual which included all of the exercises/problem-statements from the the book then that may violate fair use. Assuming that's an accurate description, I'm still unclear on whether or not posting all of the questions to Code Review would violate fair use, since they wouldn't form a single document. – igal May 9 '18 at 15:05
  • @igal You may want to clarify your question or add a new question. With the way you've phrased it now, we would consider a single post, and that may be considered fair use. However, if you make a new post every day, including snippets from another problem, it could be that each one may be considered fair use on its own, but if all the posts were considered together as a collection, it could be that it would not be considered fair use. – Brandin May 9 '18 at 15:30

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