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Medicine Science

Copyright Claim Sets Back Cognitive Impairment Testing 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-invented-the-question-mark dept.
Kilrah_il writes "A recent New England Journal of Medicine editorial talks about the mini-mental state examination — a standardized screening test for cognitive impairment. After years of being widely used, the original authors claim to own copyright on the test and 'a licensed version of the MMSE can now be purchased [...] for $1.23 per test. The MMSE form is gradually disappearing from textbooks, Web sites, and clinical tool kits.' The article goes on to describe the working of copyright law and various alternative licenses, including GNU Free Documentation License, and ends with the following suggestion: 'We suggest that authors of widely used clinical tools provide explicit permissive licensing, ideally with a form of copyleft. Any new tool developed with public funds should be required to use a copyleft or similar license to guarantee the freedom to distribute and improve it, similar to the requirement for open-access publication of research funded by the National Institutes of Health.'"
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Copyright Claim Sets Back Cognitive Impairment Testing

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  • Sweet 16 vs MMSE (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sudnshok (136477) * on Friday December 30, 2011 @10:09AM (#38538304)

    According to the article, an alternative test called Sweet 16 was produced and was subsequently killed by the MMSE copyright owners' legal action. It sounded like the Sweet 16 used completely new copy but similar logic. Can you copyright logic if all the words are completely different? I'd love to see a comparison of those two tests.

    On a side note, I hope no one owns the copyright on the eye chart. I like getting my eyes checked every year or two.

  • Re:Sweet 16 vs MMSE (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Friday December 30, 2011 @10:17AM (#38538384)

    According to the article, an alternative test called Sweet 16 was produced and was subsequently killed by the MMSE copyright owners' legal action. It sounded like the Sweet 16 used completely new copy but similar logic. Can you copyright logic if all the words are completely different? I'd love to see a comparison of those two tests.

    On a side note, I hope no one owns the copyright on the eye chart. I like getting my eyes checked every year or two.

    If the logic is germane to the item in question, yes you can copyright logic. Think of it as music and the logic is the step changes from note to note. Changing all the notes to a different key isn't unique enough to say it is a different work.

  • Re:Public Funds (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2011 @11:42AM (#38539336)

    If every work ever created by any organization that received government grants was public domain, nobody would ever take a government grant. In addition, on further investigation, it appears Marshal Folstein, a junior attending at the time, wrote the original questions of his own volition to help Susan Folstein, a resident, to asses patients. They then formalized and published the test with the assistance of Paul McHugh, and did so independently of the hospital. They were not hired by or even encouraged by the hospital to make this test, it was their own creation, so there's really no argument that they didn't own the copyright.

    And yet any programmer / sysadmin / who develops a tool on his/her own time stands a chance of losing control of that tool to his/her employer. Hmmm, makes perfect sense to me.

    BTW, I'm not saying that the test should be public domain or copyleft.

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Friday December 30, 2011 @12:08PM (#38539686) Homepage Journal

    Unfortunately, there's no easy way to leave them a comment about one's opinion of their behavior on their website. I looked.

    You can leave a comment about the business, and a rating of their trustworthiness and vendor reliability here [mywot.com]. They should see it if they care about their website, and some of their site's visitors (depending on installed FF plugins) may see it. Whether that effects their business prospects is dubious, but it's something.

    If a business publicly asserts that a test which has similar mechanics to their test (but is a completely different expression) is a derived work, I'd say they're a bit untrustworthy (though to be fair, matters of law aren't something they claim expertise with -- OTOH, trustworthy people usually try to STFU on topics they don't understand (but we all make mistakes sometimes)). If they issue DMCA takedown notices based on that misconception, I'd say they're dangerously untrustworthy and no one can safely interact with them in commercial matters, which also impacts their "vendor reliability."

    What troubles me more than the copyright issue, is that TFA makes it sound like they sell a "licensed version" of the test. It doesn't say authorized copies (copyright terminology), but a licensed version, which implies there might be terms of use or a contract, wholly unlike how people normally buy most copyrighted works (though many proprietary software publishers now assert that too). That is a pretty threatening idea. I wonder if TFA got that right.

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