Can you legaly share a course (without asking the writer) if you always quote who wrote it?

I said "always" because I'm talking about a large scale, not a private conversation on Facebook for example.

Does it have something to do with money? I understand selling someone's work is not ok, but what about money generated by discret publicity?

What about public domain knowledge? How do you make a legal difference between sharing Thales Theorem and sharing a formula found by one of your teachers? Between sharing a quote from a famous person with a not famous person? Is it related to 'is the person alive'?

  • When you say "share a course" do you mean materials and other information developed by somebody to teach a particular subject, or do you mean something else?
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 13:59
  • That's what I meant. Commented May 17, 2019 at 14:57

1 Answer 1


Under the typical interpretation of "sharing a course", that is copyright infringement, because it means making available copies of materials written by others, without obtaining their permission. However, as will all things copyright there is also the possibility of a "fair use" defense. The chances for a successful fair use defense are slim; while non-profit educational use favors fair use (if this is non-profit educational use), effect on market and extent of copying disfavors fair use.

On the other hand, certain components that would go into a course can be "shared", for example you can quote a memorable line for free. You can always copy works that are actually in the public domain. As far as I know, it has never been determined by the courts whether a mathematical proof is protected by. Facts are not protected by copyright, only their expression, and mathematical proofs are generally argued to be statements of fact. The more formal a proof, the more you run into the fact wall, where there are limited number of means possible for expressing a given fact.

If Thales were alive he might try suing, but the courts would find that his copyright expired millennia ago.

  • Does a teacher has copyright over every educational document he writes? Does publicity counts as profit? Commented May 17, 2019 at 14:59
  • Copyright exists for all documents written, but the employer might be the one who holds the copyright. I do not think that the courts have ever found that gaining fame is a "for-profit" purpose – profit usually means money, but it could be cattle. It is undeniable that fame can be a precursor to monetary gain, but the courts have yet to connect the dots in that manner.
    – user6726
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 15:32
  • I'm not sure to fully understand what you meant, when I said publicity I meant earning money with advertising, or even partnership. Commented May 17, 2019 at 18:38
  • In that case, what you mean by publicity is clearly profit.
    – user6726
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 19:18

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