I have been reading a lot of books about the IT world in general. I learned from those books.

Now I wish to create some tutorials which will be available in public in form of a website.

Suppose I intend to copy some sentences (from books or copyrighted material that does not allow copying neither a part), what if I copy them, but rephrase them in a different way? (the way I understood better for example, or add some more examples for that topic)

Is that allowed, to rephrase a coprighted part of text so I can use it in public domain.

2 Answers 2


Ideas are not protected by copyright, only arrangements of words are protected. If you "rephrase" by only a minor change of wording, leaving much of the wording intact, that is still a copyright infringement unless an exception such as fair use or fair dealing applies (and that seems a bit doubtful in this case).

If you "rephrase" so that the wording is quite different, even though the idea is the same, there is probably no infringement.

Copying elements of computer code or other IT commands that are essential to making an example work is not infringement. Where there is only one or a very small number of ways to naturally express a fact, copying such expression is not infringement, as facts are not protected by copyright.

Adding examples but keeping significant wording unchanged is still likely to be infringement.

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    Note that some parts of the source might need to be copied by necessity, because the subject is IT. Certain computer commands must be entered exactly for them to work. Copying those is not infringement of the original book, because the correct wording of these commands is factual information. Rephrasing such commands might be understandable to humans, but not to computers.
    – MSalters
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 16:59
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    @MSalters Oracle, rather famously, would beg to differ
    – 9072997
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 20:32
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    @9072997 would you please elaborate on just what part of the comment by MSalters you think Oracle would disagree with, and at least a hint of why? Thank you. Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 20:36
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    @DavidSiegel He is presumably referring to Oracle’s copyright claim over the Java API and their seeking an injunction against Google’s reimplementation of that API, which is currently being considered by the Supreme Court.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 20:52
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    @9072997 Ah I see. Thank you. But even if a given API is protected by copyright, quoting a single specific element or command from that API in order to demonstrate how to use it would surely be fair use in the US, and probably not infringement anywhere else either. Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 21:02

There is a fine line between infringement and not. It gets blurrier by fair use, fair dealing and other exceptions.

For example, me quoting David's answer verbatim, in part or in total, would be per se copyright infringement. If I use that to criticize one point of the answer and I take no more than necessary, my infringement is fair use - and not to be treated as an infringement.

And then there is academic quotation style, bypassing the need for actual citation or copying: David says in his otherwise excellent answer, that fair use isn't ever an infringement on the copyright. However, fair use is used as an affirmative defense most often - and some few times, something that was thought to be fair use isn't, and thus it is still an infringement. For example, Good Mythical Morning took a commercial photo of a prison and discussed the depicted prison, but never the photo. That is not criticism of the photo and not transformative to the photo. As photo licenses for the photo are available they infringed on the market, the work was a creative photo, so it was copyright infringement. That example case by the way was ended of an error of the lawyer - not an error of judgment.

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    Fair use must be raised as an affirmative defense, but when it is established there never was an infringement. "There is no right without a remedy" s the old common-law maxim puts it, meaning where the law provides no remedy it does not grant a meaningless right. That is why people can be sanctioned for sending a DMCA takedown when they "should have known" that fair use applied. 17 USC 107 says: "Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, ... is not an infringement of copyright" Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 12:03
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    @DavidSiegel ahh, eh, bad example, found a better: when you think you have fair use but don't.
    – Trish
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 20:48

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