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I'd like to document my learning experience, and I'd like to use the 'quizzes' or 'chapter review' style questions in my textbooks as the basis for blog posts. So basically, I finish a chapter and do the review questions on my blog...Here's the book, these were the questions, here are my answers. Is this a no-no? If it is acceptable use, is there an appropriate way to reference the materials for this type of use?

After digging around I found a similar question, but it mentions taking pages directly from the text...

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2 Answers 2

IANAL, but I think it's a bit of a grey area. There's a 'fair use'/'fair dealing' exception to copyright in many jurisdictions, and two of the exceptions included in this principal are often teaching and scholarship. Now, I don't know whether figuring out the answers to text book questions would count as either teaching or scholarship, but it might. There's often also a 'commentary' exception, but again, I'm not exactly sure if that applies to your example.

I think you'd want to ask yourself who you think would be the audience for your blog. Is this for you and a few friends to discuss your solutions and explore the issues raised? To me, that sounds like the text book question was merely a jumping-off point, and the real meat of your blog would be the discussion. I think that would give you a strong argument that your excerpts qualify as fair use. On the other hand, if the true purpose of your blog is to help students copy their homework answers instead of doing the work themselves, I think the questions and the original text are much more central to your blog's value, and therefore are less likely to qualify as fair use. And if the publisher feels that you are lessening the value of their product by publishing these answers, they're both more likely to go after you AND more likely to be awarded damages, if a court agrees with them.

I can't really tell whether "I'd like to document my learning" is a genuine statement or whether it's just what you think you'll say if anyone gets you in trouble for helping others to cheat. It occurs to me that unless you're studying philosophy or something else with a lot of discussion involved, no one else is likely to be interested in sharing your learning documentation. So you could document your learning just as well by keeping the work private. That makes me think you're actually trying to help others cheat. Why? Is there a profit motivation? I'd tread carefully on this ground, both morally and legally.

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Odds are those questions are copyright-protected -- but unless your blog is in a position to get a lot of attention (like on a website of major newspaper), you probably don't have to worry about upsetting the copyright holders. If you did upset them, it's likely that they would first ask you, in the form of "cease and desist" letter, to remove whatever you copied. That would probably be the end of it, unless you made money from the blog, in which case they might want some compensation.

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I can't learn anything from down-votes when they don't come with explanations in the comments section. So at this point, I still think this answer is legit. –  Shane F. Feb 7 '12 at 18:08
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