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Are problems copyrighted?

Contest problems:

Is it allowed to publish contest problems on the internet without mentioning which contest it's from? Also, is it always allowed to publish a contest problem, as long as you mention which contest it's from?

Non-contest problems:

Is it allowed to publish a non-contest problem without mentioning its source (say you've got it from a book)? Sometimes I see a problem occuring in multiple books, with neither one referring to the other (or any other). So, would it be allowed to put every problem from an entire book on the internet? Or half of it? I guess not. But on what grounds?

Note by Tim Vermeulen
4 years, 3 months ago

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16 votes

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Generally original problems (including the ones on Brilliant) are copyrighted, although different sources have different rules about how you can use their copyrighted content. Sometimes different publishers of math problems have agreements about using each other's material.

That said, it's much harder to copyright problems that are simply computations or straightforward evaluation of expressions. For example, it is not possible to copyright "If x+2 = 3, what is x?" But the unique kinds of problems you see in olympiads or on Brilliant are typically copyrightable and copyrighted.

Suyeon Khim Staff - 4 years, 3 months ago

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That makes sense. However, is it then illegal to share an original problem online, without explicit permission? The author of the problem probably wouldn't mind, but if he would mind and went to court, would he have a chance?

Tim Vermeulen - 4 years, 3 months ago

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Hey Tim – I'm not an expert on copyright law. I generally try to think about what is sensible. If someone else put a lot of their personal time and creative energy into making something, they might not want other people using their work without permission, and especially without giving them credit. If you think the author wouldn't mind, I'd simply ask him or her.

Suyeon Khim Staff - 4 years, 3 months ago

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@Suyeon Khim Okay, thanks. :)

Tim Vermeulen - 4 years, 3 months ago

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From my experience dealing with media online, if the original intent of the work wasn't intended to make money, then most authors/artists don't mind you reusing their work as long as you give them credit and aren't profiting from it. Just ask and explain what you're using it for, and they're usually okay with it.

Basically, just ask permission to be sure, but the answer is usually yes.

Cam Herringshaw - 4 years, 3 months ago

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I've also wondered this too. And on a similar note, are Brilliant problems copyrighted?

Bob Krueger - 4 years, 3 months ago

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From the Brilliant Terms of Use, under COPYRIGHT:

"All content included on the Site, such as text, graphics, logos, button icons, images, audio clips, digital downloads, data compilations, and software, is the property of Brilliant or its content suppliers and is protected by United States and international copyright laws. The compilation of all content on the Site is the exclusive property of Brilliant and is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All software used on (or provided through) the Site is the property of Brilliant or its software suppliers and is protected by United States and international copyright laws."

I'm not a lawyer, but I guess that's a yes.

Jimmy Kariznov - 4 years, 3 months ago

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Well they didn't state explicitly that their problems are copyrighted..

On another note, I think Brilliant copyrighting their problems doesn't really make sense, since they picked most of the easier problems from other sources (and without attribution to the original problem/the original problem cannot be traced to its origin).

Ivan Wangsa - 4 years, 3 months ago

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