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  1. #1
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    Default Copyright of a Solution Manual

    Hi, guys! So, I have a question which I've been researching for two days.

    As some of you know, I sometimes teach mathematics at various universities.

    Well, in 2003, I was an "all but dissertation" PhD and took part in a couple of projects involving writing some math books. I am not the copyright holder, but I do receive some royalties from the sales of these books as a result of my work on them.

    For each math text which was written so too was a solutions manual generated, which are sold separately in 2 different forms: a student version which has only selected problems, and a full solutions manual which is only sold to institutions. I had no direct input on, did no direct work with and receive no payment for either version of the these solutions manuals. But the solution manuals themselves are copyrighted and, I guess, are derivative works of the original texts.

    Next semester, I have occasion to teach a class on differential equations. As the professor of the class, like any other, I have freedom to pick any text I want. Obviously, I'd rather use a book I already know a good deal about so as to minimize my work: namely that I won't have to read another book and adjust for a different style of material presentation.

    Part and parcel of teaching math is solving problems as case examples. I also publish these solutions well in advance to be sold to students in the student bookstore on campus, as well as other selected problems of note.

    This is sold at a considerably lesser price than one would pay for the student solutions manual were a student to buy it online or in a bookstore. The solutions I offer up are done entirely by me independent of the solutions manual. So, the actual process I use may or may not be the same for any particular problem as found in the solution manual. I would presume that the way I present a solution is different than it would be presented in a solutions manual in several ways:

    1.) interim explanations as to why this is so,
    2.) the actual algebraic manipulations are likely to be different,
    3.) the solutions are likely to be more indepth and explanatory, and
    4.) they're in my own hand. (which isn't pretty, let me tell you)


    I'm aware there are academic exceptions to copyright ownership, and that some things can't be copyrighted. But these solutions are sold, and do compete with the copyright holders' versions. The selling price is to offset the materials used to print and store the materials. The process has either zero, or nearly zero profit margin to it.

    Normally, I wouldn't be worried, but I'm at least concerned here because I was involved in the original work of the book for which the solutions manuals were originally written.

    So, I guess my questions are:

    1.) Does this infringe on the original copyright holders' rights?

    2.) Is it unethical to use a book I helped write and write up solutions which disadvantage the copyright holders' ability to sell their works?

    3.) Do I really have anything to worry about?

    Thanks for any input you might have.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Copyright of a Solution Manual

    Complicated stuff, as I am not sure how far the doctrine of Academic Freedom extends.


    Pay a little cash up front to an IP attorney for a preliminary opinion.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Copyright of a Solution Manual

    Quote Quoting BOR
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    Complicated stuff, as I am not sure how far the doctrine of Academic Freedom extends.


    Pay a little cash up front to an IP attorney for a preliminary opinion.
    Thanks, I think.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Copyright of a Solution Manual

    Quote Quoting ashman165
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    1.) Does this infringe on the original copyright holders' rights?
    You're talking about taking the exact problems as presented in the original work, and presenting them using the same basic structure (section, chapter and sequence) along with your own original work in showing how the problems can be solved? It sounds to me like yours would be a derivative work, based upon the extent to which it draws on the original - you would be using their structure, the math problems they created and selected. Although a math problem of itself is not subject to copyright, the manner of its presentation (e.g., transforming a basic number problem into a "word problem"), and moreso the manner of selection, arrangement and presentation of hundreds or thousands of math problems in book form, may nonetheless be copyrighted.
    Quote Quoting ashman165
    2.) Is it unethical to use a book I helped write and write up solutions which disadvantage the copyright holders' ability to sell their works?
    Does your college have any philosophy Ph.D.'s on staff? See if one specializes in ethics. Or send a letter to Miss Manners.
    Quote Quoting ashman165
    3.) Do I really have anything to worry about?
    Does your college have a legal office that professors and instructors can ask about their ideas?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Copyright of a Solution Manual

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
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    You're talking about taking the exact problems as presented in the original work, and presenting them using the same basic structure (section, chapter and sequence) along with your own original work in showing how the problems can be solved? It sounds to me like yours would be a derivative work, based upon the extent to which it draws on the original - you would be using their structure, the math problems they created and selected. Although a math problem of itself is not subject to copyright, the manner of its presentation (e.g., transforming a basic number problem into a "word problem"), and moreso the manner of selection, arrangement and presentation of hundreds or thousands of math problems in book form, may nonetheless be copyrighted.

    Does your college have any philosophy Ph.D.'s on staff? See if one specializes in ethics. Or send a letter to Miss Manners.

    Does your college have a legal office that professors and instructors can ask about their ideas?
    I think all of our PhDs have one in philosophy - hence the name!

    Normally, we're allowed (even expected!) to solve however many problems we care to adequately illustrate the point. And we can make photocopies, write up solutions and hand them out. But budget constraints are getting tight and my semester printing budget would be all but exhausted if I presented my own lecture notes and solutions to selected problems to each student on paper. So, the cost of printing is essentially passed onto them (twice actually. Presumably, their lab fee covers this, but where that money goes is above my pay grade).

    Of course, math itself can't be copyrighted. But specific problems and manners of presenting it can be.

    My solutions are independent of any solutions the publisher sells. That is to say that I don't look in the solutions manuals; I just present (rarely is there only one way to solve a particular problem at such an introductory level of math) a solution to specific problems.

    I guess I could just talk to the head shed, write the creators or pick a different book.

    But to speak with the head shed, I'd at least like to have some ideas or talking points about this - ya know, the vernacular. Then I can be cool with the adminstrative geeks as well as the natural sciences geeks. ^_^

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Copyright of a Solution Manual

    Quote Quoting ashman165
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    I think all of our PhDs have one in philosophy - hence the name!
    Piled higher and deeper?

    No, really, you can get a Ph.D. in philosophy.
    Quote Quoting ashman165
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    My solutions are independent of any solutions the publisher sells.
    Make your problems independent of their book, as well - sample problems and sample solutions, rather than their problems with your solutions - and most of the copyright issues go away.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Copyright of a Solution Manual

    Quote Quoting aaron
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    Piled higher and deeper?

    No, really, you can get a Ph.D. in philosophy.

    Make your problems independent of their book, as well - sample problems and sample solutions, rather than their problems with your solutions - and most of the copyright issues go away.
    Nyuk nyuk.

    Yeah, I know one can get a PhD in philosophy. The funny about that is most math PhDs I see don't list math on them; they're just "Doctor of Philosophy".

    I've also noted that college degrees have the same inverse size to power thing going on as police badges. Get a baccalaureate degree, and it's the size of a small end-table. Work as a city cop, and you get a badge the size of those cowboy belt buckles - ya know the ones with which generate their own gravity.

    Get an advanced degree, and the degree is barely standard paper size. State police badges are like cute little broaches, and the FBI's badge is practically a tie tack. I bet post doctoral certifications, the likes of which they hand out at Good Enough U are probably book mark sized. Make me wonder. *scratches head*

    That's a decent idea, but for that kind of work I might as well write my own book and solutions manual. Remember, as one who teaches, I'm inherently lazy. =P It's hard enough work talking for 300 minutes a week and having to write my own exams. Sheesh!

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