I would like to create a suite of software tools (for commercial use) to be used by medical professionals in their daily practice. This will require that I utilize information published in medical journals.

For instance, there is a questionnaire that was validated (verified that it measures what it is intended to measure) by researchers; and the questionnaire was published in a medical journal.

In order for me to adapt it into a software tool, I will need to use the specific language that the validated questionnaire uses. If I change the language, it will invalidate the questionnaire.

My question is: What legal concerns should I have regarding the use of published research to create commercial use software? Is creating a citations page within the application that the end-user can view sufficient protection? Do I need to seek a license or written permission even though the information is published in a journal?


1 Answer 1


...and the questionnaire was published in a medical journal.

Read I have a question about copyright. What should I read before I ask it? for background on copyright and Fair Use.

Contact the authors of the article for permission to use the entire questionnaire in your software. They hold the copyright(s) on the article and all content. They don't have a copyright on the individual medical terms; they have a copyright on the questionnaire.

The authors will also be able to tell you if they have other Intellectual Property (IP) rights on their research and the techniques that were used to develop the questionnaire (i.e., a pending or granted patent), and if so, you will need to arrange a legal licensing agreement with them for the use.

  • 2
    Actually, if it's published in a journal, the copyright may have been transferred to the publisher. Although if that's the case, hopefully the author would let you know if you asked.
    – ff524
    Jan 15, 2017 at 4:51
  • 1
    Odds are good that the author does not remember. Most authors just sign, and don't remember if they signed a license or a transfer.
    – user6726
    Jan 15, 2017 at 6:19

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