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Does copyright apply here?

Posted: Tue Jul 01, 2014 12:32 pm
by dougs
HI I found this forum but googling copyright forums! :)

i want to produce a book of exam past paper solutions (my own work) for financial gain.

I wrote to some exam bodies asking permission if there was a copyright issue. in my email to these exam bodies I stated that I do not want to reproduce their work (ie past papers) i only want to produce my own version of solutions to these past papers. I stated that my work would contain only my interpretation of the answer(s) and the only reference to your Past papers would be exam titles and question numbers. I would also put on a disclaimer as well to say that these are in no way related to whatever exam body


Exam body #1 said said yes go ahead as long as I put on a disclaimer. they have no problem with this

Exam body #2 i emailed 3 people with the same request. The first one replied sending me a standard pdf with their Notes on copyright of their materials and costs involved. Now the notes only refer to a preproduction of their work. I stated in my email that I would not be reproducing their work, I would only be producing worked solutions to their work. A few minutes later a received a reply from a colleague of theirs stating they had no objection to my planned work as long as I put on the disclaimer? So my first question is, should i seek clarification here or can i take the word of the 2nd emailer. the third person didn't email me back.

Exam body #3 stated "We would be happy for you to use past papers as you describe. However, although you would not be publishing the questions directly, the same rules apply as for any commercial use."
They have rules where you have to purchase the use of their questions and they do not grant permission to reproduce all the questions in a paper etc. My second question to you is : are they correct in what they say? Do the same rules apply if I do not intend to reproduce their questions? As I mentioned before , I only intend to produce fully worked solutions to their past papers, not the actual questions themselves.

Thanks in advance.

Posted: Tue Jul 01, 2014 2:09 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Doug

I think you can be guided by the two replies which said there were no copyright implications in what you want to do. This is for the simple reason that you will not be copying anything which is someone else's intellectual creation, such as the text of a question. The title of an exam does not fit into this category, since it is an obvious fact, as is a year, over which no-one has any monopoly. In fact I do not think even the disclaimer is strictly necessary, but if you happy to include it, then nothing is lost by doing so. As for the response from Exam body 3, I think this is irrelevant. Since you are not seeking to use their questions verbatim, their trading terms don't apply in the context of copyright. If by this they mean that when you buy a copy of their exam papers, one of the conditions of sale is that you do not use the questions for a commercial venture, then this is, strictly speaking, a matter of contract law, and they would need to sue you for breach of contract if they felt aggrieved by your project.

My only concern lies in how you will refer to the questions, in order for your answers to have a proper context. For example, taking a topical issue, a history exam could ask "Was the First World War inevitable?" or "What started the First World War?" and although the answers to each question might cover most of the same facts, the actual answer in each case would need to be structured differently. Or, as I was taught at school, answer the question on the paper, not the one you would have preferred to have been asked. So how can you ensure that readers of your book will know what your solutions are answering if you don't (and aren't allowed to) quote the question?
Clearly this is easier with say, maths or the sciences, because the exam setters have less leeway in how they structure their questions to test the student's knowledge and understanding of something which was laid down in a syllabus. But as long ago a 1916, in a case known as University of London Press, Ltd. v. University Tutorial Press, Ltd. [1916] 2 Ch. 601, it was held that even the choice, between a number of possible equations which could have been set, of those which eventually went into a paper, constituted originality on the part of the examiners and thus qualified their work for literary copyright. This was so even though the mathematics involved in the equations and their solutions were held to be facts over which no-one has any claim.
So be very careful, if you need to paraphrase the actual question, that you do not copy any substantial part of of it, as that might lead to problems.

The commercial issue does not matter in this context. The only difference it might have made if your book had been a non-commercial venture, might have been that you could have invoked Section 32 subsections (1) and (3) of the Copyright Designs and Patens Act 1988 which might have allowed you greater opportunity to quote the actual questions.

Posted: Tue Jul 01, 2014 2:50 pm
by dougs
hi thank you very much for you reply.

The subjects in question are secondary school level maths and physics so even though I do not intend to replicate the questions word for word in my work I would obviously need to make reference to part of the question.

heres an example

Exam Paper 1 Question 1

Solve the equation x²+8x+15=0

my solution would be

Exam Paper 1 Question 1 Solution

x=-5 , x=-3

actually there would be a bit more wording to it than that, but that is essential what I want to achieve. My worry is that, whilst I have not included the whole exam question , i have used a part of it (which I obviously need to do to solve it). I don't think this is the same as paraphrasing as I am copying a portion of the original question to start off with, from then on its all my own work.

obviously this is a very short question in terms of english language around it. Most other questions have a few lines of text around them which I would not need to copy. I just need to pick out the numbers from the questions to generate my own solutions.

Posted: Tue Jul 01, 2014 4:29 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Doug,
Thanks of the clarification.
You do need to be careful about quoting from the original question, given that this is much the same basis that the 1916 case I referred to earlier was brought to court.
For example, would not the question to which you provide the solution work equally well if it read: a²+8a+15=0, thereby putting some distance between you and the original? However I accept that there may be good reason for retaining the equivalent of 'x' on other occasions.
I assume that it is not your intention that the reader of your book would actually have the real question paper beside him/her while following you solution. If that is so then, what you are really illustrating is the principle of how to solve a generic equation of that sort and the choice of the actual factors is arbitrary. Presumably this would be just as helpful since the student wouldn't expect to see exactly the same question in a future exam paper.

Posted: Tue Jul 01, 2014 4:40 pm
by dougs
My intention is that my work would be used alongside the actual past papers. These past papers can be downloaded off the exam body website ( as pdf ) or purchase in book from from bookstores on the internet.

the students would use my solutions as a study guide for both learning the material and also what tp expect an how to tackle exam questions.

Posted: Tue Jul 01, 2014 5:42 pm
by AndyJ
OK, thanks for the further clarification Doug.
I was obviously on the wrong track in thinking your book would be a stand alone teaching aid.
Where ever you can do so safely, without confusing the reader, try to let them transpose the question. Perhaps something like, "If you take the equation in line two of the question, the first thing we need to do..." Obviously at other times you may need to refer more specifically to the words or equations in a particular question, but so long as you do this sparingly, you should avoid too many problems. A court might be expected to take the view that the copyright work is the complete question paper, and therefore any one question or part thereof is unlikely to amount to substantial part (which is what the law prohibits the copying of). Within any written question the actual equation is likely to be the least protectable part (from a copyright point of view) on the basis that the equation is factual, and the only reason it might be considered to be subject to copyright at all is down to the choices made by the examiner between alternatives.
You, in writing your book, are fully entitled to express the same facts, and if there is no other way to express that particular mathematical statement, you have to use the same notation, but for a slightly different purpose.

Posted: Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:51 pm
by dougs
say for instance a question was

1. The point A (6, 8) lies on the curve with equation y = x² – 2x + 10.
What is the gradient of the tangent to this curve at A?

If was to use the least possible reference to the actual wording of the question. would I be ok with something like.

1. using the equation from question 1,
if we differentiate we get dy/dx = 2x-2
using the x-co-ordinate (6) from the point (6,8) we insert x=6 into the equation giving dy/dx=2(6) - 2 = 10
The gradient at the point (6,8) would be 10.

with regards to the exam body that person 1 said i couldn't and person 2 said I could use their questions. Would i be better to seek clarification on this or is the word of Person 2 ok to proceed?

Posted: Wed Jul 02, 2014 4:05 pm
by AndyJ
Hi again Doug,
I think that approach to paraphrasing the question would probably be OK, since what you do have to re-use are very short snippets which I can think of no other way of expressing.
As for your question about which correspondent from the exam board you should rely on, much depends on their authority to speak on behalf of the Board. I don't see how they can both be right! It would probably be advisable to seek clarification, but I fear this may encourage risk aversion on their part and person 1 will prevail because it costs them nothing to say no. If the two correspondents have disclosed their positions within the Board and you can deduce which is the more senior, then their answer is probably the one you rely on.