I currently work as a tutor for high school kids - so you can assume that this is commerical. To give them homework, I take questions from textbooks, past exams, and from online. I reword the questions and then redraw all the diagrams and then give it to them.

I've only just realised that this is exposing me to potentially a lot of liability due to copyright violation. But I can't possibly make this many questions myself that are of a high quality.

My question is, how much do I need to modify the question until it is no longer copyrighted? How much rewording is enough - if ever? Is redrawing the same diagram myself averting copyright? I've read things online that copyright cannot protect ideas, which in this case I would presume to be the "tricks" or "essence" of the question - and so the only copyrighted thing are the words and diagrams?

1 Answer 1


If you copy something without a license, that is copyright infringement. If you take a copyright protected work and create a work derived from it that’s copyright infringement. If you read these questions, put these questions away, and then ask someone else to write questions, describing what questions you want, that is not copyright infringement.

If you “modify”, no matter how much or how little, you get a derived work, with both you and the copyright owner of the original owning the copyright, so you can’t copy it without permission of the original copyright owner. And creating the derived work was copyright infringement in the first place.

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    While interposing a third party to generate the new work is one way to avoid copying there is no reason why one person can’t re-express the ideas in a copyrighted work without creating a derivative work. Oct 23, 2021 at 22:43
  • I can confirm that this answer is absolutely the case as per the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) under Australian law. There are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes a "substantial part", but if you are taking existing works and modifying them, then you are almost certainly breaching copyright. Incidentally, there is this myth about changing 10% of something avoids copyright - this is a fallacy.
    – Jane S
    Feb 18, 2022 at 6:37

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