When someone reads a line or a paragraph in a copyrighted textbook that explains a fact T, then wonders why T occurs, is asking a question (on Stack Exchange or another public forum) such as: "Why does T occur?" an infringement of copyright law? What if topic T was not very obscure?

  • 4
    Subrat, I am sorry to say this but I would downvote your question if I could - you do not seem to have researched the definition of 'copyright' or 'copyrighted'. I recommend you start by googling something like "what is copyright".
    – Spike0xff
    Commented Feb 12 at 4:58
  • 2
    Not sure why this has gotten the upvotes it has. It shows no sign at all of any research or effort, and must be a duplicate since copyright is such a consistent theme here. What's next? Does knowledge infringe on copyright? @Spike0xff, i gotcha covered... Commented Mar 5 at 15:16

2 Answers 2


In most copyright law (India is no exception), facts and ideas cannot be copyrighted. A particular expression of a fact or idea (i.e. the words used to say it) can be copyrighted, but not the underlying thought. The fact that I wrote this answer, for example, means I own the copyright to these particular words describing copyright law, but that certainly does not mean I own the copyright on the very idea of copyright law, and that no one may discuss copyright law without my approval.

  • 9
    But note that collections of facts can be copyrighted in many jurisdictions under database rights, even if none of the individual facts can be copyrighted. The fact that I’m 175cm high cannot be copyrighted, but a database of the heights of 1 million people can.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Feb 10 at 12:07
  • 1
    @MikeScott The fact that you're 175cm is personal information, which in Europe has much stricter rules than copyright. Now that I've posted this comment, if you're in Europe you can send an email to stackexchange and request that they censor my comment to erase your height from it.
    – Stef
    Commented Feb 11 at 16:56
  • @MikeScott So to infringe that copyright, the perpetrator would have to have memorized the entire (or a significant portion) of the collection. There are few people who could memorize a big chunk of a phone book.
    – Barmar
    Commented Feb 11 at 21:23
  • 2
    @Barmar No, the perpetrator might for example scrape the data from a website. Or just purchase one copy of the database and then start making and selling their own copies of it. No memorisation required. Do you have to memorise a novel to infringe on its copyright?
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Feb 12 at 7:04
  • 3
    @Chieron I think it depends on the jurisdiction. In the US the Feist case is the precedent that determined that raw information is not copyrightable. Copyright requires creativity, so you can copyright if you express editorial judgement, or use creative presentation (but not simple mechanical sorting, e.g. alphabetizing is not creative).
    – Barmar
    Commented Feb 13 at 16:47

Nuclear Hoagie's answer correctly notes that repeating the ideas and knowledge of facts is not copyright infringement when expressed in your own words.

Further, if you decide to include a short citation from a published book in your own text, that is normally covered by fair use or right to quote rules in the copyright law. In most countries, it is enough if the citation is short in length compared to the whole work, and it is directly related to your own work. In every case it is necessary to credit the original author of the citation.

I'm not familiar with India's copyright law in particular, but this seems to fall under the "criticism or review" and "personal use" categories in Exceptions To Infringement Under Copyright Act, 1957.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .