Every instrument is protected by copyright or by a license agreement. If you want to use instruments such as surveys, questionnaires, interview questions, or tests created by people other than yourself, you must obtain the permission of the copyright holder or follow usage terms of the instrument license. Remember that permission is not the same as attribution. It is still necessary to cite the author of the instrument you use.
In general, the permissions process involves five steps:
All instruments are copyrighted. Sometimes you will see clear instructions to obtain permission to use the instrument. For example, the image below shows that in the APA PsycTESTS database the instructions are found under "Permissions." Other instruments are licensed and the license accompanying the instrument will indicate the manner in which the instrument may be used. Some instruments do not clearly state usage permissions.
Locating the copyright holder can sometimes be difficult.
If you located the instrument in a dissertation, contact the author of the dissertation to find out if they are the copyright holder or if they obtained permission elsewhere.
If you located the instrument in a database such as APA PsycTests, check the permissions section for each instrument. Some options include: Contact Publisher, May use for Research/Teaching, and Contact Publisher and Corresponding Author.
If you located the instrument on a company website, contact the company.
In each case, you will need to locate the person/entity holding the copyright in order to ask for the permissions you need.
Determine which rights you wish to request from the copyright holder:
Be specific about what you will be doing with the copyright holder's work. The answers to these questions will determine the rights for which you will want to obtain permission.
Here are two sample letters for requesting permission to use an instrument. These are just samples, use them to create your own email to request the permissions you need.
Save copies of your emails in your project file. You will want to document that you have received permission to use the work.
If the instrument you will be using indicates terms of usage, save a copy of that information as well and use the instrument in the manner designated.
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