I have a mathematical question and solution which is taken from a different website. Can I post it here and ask specific queries on the part which I did not understand?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't see why not – we're here to answer math questions. But please include a link to the other website, and enough information about what's there so we don't have to use the link. $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2015 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ thanks for the information. $\endgroup$
    – Kiran
    Dec 17, 2015 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ Whether you are allowed to post the material here is up to the owner of the material. No one here can give you that approval. If the material you have access is a legal copy AND anyone can access the material on web w/o any subscription or login process AND whatever hosting that material doesn't tell you not to redistribute the material, then it is usually safe to summarize part of the material and post here. To be sure, one really should consult a professional, in this case a lawyer (I'm serious) not random folks here. $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2015 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ @achillehui Note that law SE is in beta :). $\endgroup$
    – Surb
    Dec 18, 2015 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Surb I for one wouldn't take legal advice from random, anonymous people online if I were worried that my actions could have serious legal repercussions. $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2015 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ In the U. S. you get pretty far by relying on Fair Use Exemption if it is (1) non-commercial, (2) transformative (i.e. add something new), (3) is a small portion of the entire work. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use Since there are legal exceptions, it is not always up to the owner. But the safest method is to link to it and summarize it with your own words. $\endgroup$ Dec 26, 2015 at 0:45
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    $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi Just to avoid creating wrong impression about Law.SE, I'll add that questions seeking legal advice are off-topic there. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Dec 28, 2015 at 19:38
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    $\begingroup$ @NormalHuman That's probably smart of them (I rather expected it to be the case). Though I imagine that cannot be easy to moderate... $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2015 at 20:27

1 Answer 1


Mathematical ideas are exempt from patenting. Copyright covers only the "reduction to fixed form" of an expression, and in the case that an idea admits of only one or very few forms of expression, a copyright does not give exclusive ownership or control of such expressions.

Short answer: You should avoid plagiarism (by giving credit to your sources), but you should not be concerned with mathematics per se being subject to copyright.

References to US Copyright Act

"In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."

USCA Title 17 s.102(b)

"Copyright law does not protect ideas, methods, or systems. Copyright protection is therefore not available for ideas or procedures for doing, making, or building things; scientific or technical methods or discoveries; business operations or procedures; mathematical principles; formulas or algorithms; or any other concept, process, or method of operation."

US Copyright Office, Ideas, Methods, or Systems, summarizing the above section of Copyright Act

Reference to International Copyright Treaties

"Copyright protection extends to expressions and not to ideas, procedures, methods of operation or mathematical concepts as such."

Article 2: Scope of Copyright Protection, WIPO Copyright Treaty (1996)

  • $\begingroup$ This sounds great but a reference would be nice. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2015 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ @MarkMcClure: The references I added pertain to US Copyright. The situation with respect to international copyright treaty is doubtless worth additional links. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Dec 28, 2015 at 16:33

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