Online Math Text Tutoring and Solutions

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  • I am wanting to start a website where I can tutor college math students. I would have a text for each class I tutor. When students ask a problem they would give the page from the text and problem number. I would work out the solution with explinations and scan it and email it back as a pdf file. I would be selling my work/time per problem I solve. Would I be breaking a copyright? Much Thanks for your comments!
  • I need a little more info to respond to your query.
    What are the texts you mention for each course? Are these books that students must buy before they can used your planned service? Is there any link to an actual class taught at a non-profit, educational institution?
  • The text I will buy is the same text the students buy from their university for their college math course. I will have no link to the university. I will be privately tutoring students, who are attending any college, by working solutions to their textbook problems and emailing the solution and the answer to them. So would I be breaking text book publisher's copyright by doing this?

    Some advise/opinions will be greatly appreaciated!
  • Please reply your opinions and advice to my question as to whether I would be breaking copyright law of math text publishing companies. I want to start a website where I could tutor and help students that are in college courses. I would work the solution and answer to any problem they have from their college math text. I would have a copy of the texts I am willing to tutor from. They would not have to scan a written problem and email it to me. Rather they could just refer to their problem by text, page and problem number. I would charge so much a problem to work the solution and the answer. Most/many of the problems I'll be doing will probably be the even numbered problems. Would I be breaking copyright law of the math textbook publishers to show their text cover and offer to do individual problems for individual students for $ per problem??
  • I'm sorry it's taken so long for us to get back to you. All of us are volunteers, so we aren't always able to give immediate responses.

    As I understand it, you have two potential copyright issues: the cover and the actual math problems.

    I don't think the math problems pose any copyright issue at all. Everyone involved should have purchased a copy, so you are not distributing anything.

    Reproducing the cover could be a problem, but I don't think it is. If you used a physical store instead of a web site, nothing would prevent you from putting your copies of the book in the window to advertise your services. I see your proposed use as equivalent to my example. Although I haven't given you a rigorous analysis, I believe that this would qualify as fair use.

    I think you are probably safe.
  • I agree with AFry, at least in regard to the math problems themselves. I think we have to acknowledge that this is a commercial use, but the other fair use factors seem to line up on your side. The nature of the material used would be largely factual (unless you copied out whole word problems), you would be using only a small piece of the original, and there would be little impact on the market, assuming your own work was original and not copied from a teacher's edition.

    As a librarian and former faculty member, however, I would be most concerned not with copyright but with your providing a service whereby students could basically purchase answers to their homework. You could become very unpopular with the university very quickly.
  • THANKS for your advice, AFry and ksmith :)

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