I have made a scoring calculator in Excel from a copyright protected test/questionnaire that have 12 items with respective scores. In my Excel application I have included the names of the test items, e.g. 1) Depression, 2) Anxiety 3) Psychosis etc. All respective items are scored 0-3 points, I have created a simple summing of the items 1-12 in Excel. My question - is this a violation of copyright? Can I distribute this to colleagues or other physicians? The owner of the tests says no. Does copyright protection extend this far?

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    This looks like a straightforward question about the extent of copyright, so I disagree with the vote to close. – Paul Johnson May 30 '19 at 10:37
  • What jurisdiction are you in? – Paul Johnson May 30 '19 at 10:37
  • This is asking for legal information which might apply to any calculator or spreadsheet designed to work with a published survey or questionnaire, so i think it the kind of general question, useful to others, which is very on-topic here. it should not be closed, IMO. – David Siegel May 30 '19 at 22:43

Facts and short phrases cannot be copyrighted. This is true in pretty much every country that adheres to the Berne Copyright Convention, which is all but a handful of countries (177 member states as of April 2019).

If your scoring calculator merely allows a user to enter values for 12 different categories such as "Depression", "Anxiety", "Psychosis", and the like, and computes an overall score based on those values, it would not be using anything from the copyrighted questionnaire, except the category names. That would not appear to be enough to trigger copyright protection. If the text of individual questions or definitions were copied, that might well constitute copyright infringement. If the order of the categories in the original questionnaire is original and non-obvious, that order should not be copied. Instead an "obvious" or "natural" order such as alphabetic order should be used.

If the scoring calculator could be used with a different questionnaire that included the same general categories, that would help make it clear that it was not in any way a derivative work of the questionnaire.

The name of the original questionnaire might be subject to trademark protection. If that name is used in the calculator or promotional or descriptive text about it, it should be clear that it only indicates that the calculator is compatible with the questionnaire, and that it is in no way made by, sponsored by, endorsed by or affiliated with the maker(s) of the questionnaire. This should be made very obvious to any potential user or purchaser.

I am most familiar with US law, but I think the above answer should be valid in most countries.

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  • Thank you for a thorough answer. The scoring calculator only include the names of the categories, yes. No phrases or questions are copied. Good idea to include a phrase regarding that the calculator is compatible but not affiliated with the maker. – Per-Ola Rike May 31 '19 at 6:57

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