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Let's say I'm thinking about an unsolved mathematical problem for a hobby and I draw some conclusions of my own. I'd like to make these ideas public, allow anyone to use them absolutely freely (even without mentioning me) and maintain these ideas on my blog/notes website.

Now let's say a reader leaves a comment and contributes with something extra, advancing the quest to solving the unsolved mathematical problem. Maybe he/she improved an idea I already posted. I want to then continue with my hobby free to use ideas that my readers are posting, meaning, make it clear that I don't owe them anything as I use their ideas, it is therefore their responsibility if they choose to post something under this condition. I don't want to get to be in a situation where someone demands something from me because 'they came up with it'. Once some mathematical result R is communicated from person A to person B, B cannot simply "undo" this exchange even if he wants to. He cannot simply pretend he "doesn't know" R.

How could I approach this? Is it enough to mention my conditions on my website? Would I be legally bound to anything in such a situation or is this actually a non-problem and I'm overthinking it?

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It is a non-problem legally. Mathematical proofs are not patentable and only a specific representation might be copyrightable. The ideas are not copyrightable. The only issue is academic recognition and glory. Unless you are going for a Millennium Prize I would not worry.

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  • Regarding academic recognition: how much of an issue could that be and in what way? Also, could you expand a bit on "only a specific representation might be copyrightable"? – Zuzu Corneliu Aug 24 at 19:56
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    If you want the world to think of you as the unique solver of the problem you will need to be the one who solves the problem by yourself. Copyright covers specific expression (let's say text) documenting an idea. It does not cover the idea. Copyright only pertains to something that could have been created in more than one way and an author chose one of those ways. Other text conveying the same idea would not be protected. If, hypothetically, there were really only a single way to express something then that could not be copyright since no creativity or judgement could be involved. – George White Aug 24 at 22:20

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