Organisation A conducts exam every year,question paper goes out with student(There is no copyright claim on paper by A). Company B collects them and publishes them with some charge. Now, if company C tries to provide some content which need question papers to be shown, can C use B's product?

It is quite difficult for C to assemble those papers by self at present moment.

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    "There is no copyright claim on paper by A" - What does this mean? You do not have to state 'copyright' somewhere in order to have a copyright claim. – Brandin Oct 19 '18 at 8:17
  • @Brandin on the other hand people sometimes explicitly disclaim copyright in their work. Some clarity might help the question, but I think the question can nonetheless be answered, as it is in the last sentence of Dale M's answer. – phoog Oct 19 '18 at 13:42

A owns the copyright in the papers notwithstanding the lack of a notice. Copyright exists from the moment of creation of an artistic or literary work.

Both B & C need A's permission to make derivative works (or a fair use defence). In addition, C needs B's permission assuming that the transformation of A's work was substantial enough to create a separable copyright for B.

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  • If A does not assert its claim, B & C will face no negative consequences for infringing A's copyright. – phoog Oct 19 '18 at 7:03
  • @phoog Yes, and if the police never arrest you for bank robbery you will face no negative consequences for that either – Dale M Oct 19 '18 at 9:03
  • The difference there is that people who create copyright-protected works sometimes publicly disclaim the copyright either through license or a statement that they release the work into the public domain. Police never announce an intention not to prosecute bank robbery. – phoog Oct 19 '18 at 13:34
  • @phoog A license statement gives permission, so for the bank robbery example, a better analogy would be if the bank gave you permission to rob it (e.g. suppose you are producing some sort of action film). In this case, though, it is not actually a robbery anymore. Just like copying from a copyrighted work with a license would not be an infringement. – Brandin Oct 19 '18 at 13:59
  • @Brandin that's true, whereas saying "I release this into the public domain" doesn't necessarily have any legal effect, and someone could later sue for damages if they changed their mind, which is why CC licenses are irrevocable. But if we take as given the absence of a copyright claim by A, it would follow that A will not sue. – phoog Oct 19 '18 at 16:30

A lot of this depends on what C actually wants to do.

If C is taking information from the papers that A and B didn't produce and doing something with it, then there's no copyright infringement.

If C just wants to publish one or two sample papers as examples or something, it's likely to count as fair use, and hence permissible in the US. Fair use is a somewhat complicated subject, but it's been covered here and elsewhere.

If C wants to publish lots of the papers, that probably isn't fair use, and C would need copyright permission from A and possibly B.

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