Fair use and survey instruments

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  • I have a professor who would like to use portions of a copyrighted survey in a research project. There's a big scary copyright warning on the survey instrument's Website, but I think fair use would apply. Here's the site: http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/PHDCN/instruments.html

    4 Factors consideration:
    1) For research/scholarship purposes (favors fair use)
    2) The instruments are factual in nature (favors fair use)
    3) 'Portion' of instrument would be used (this might be iffy- not sure how much is planned to be used)
    4) No effect on market value

    I tried to do some searches on the topic, but as soon as I put in "survey" I'm bounced to surveys about fair use.
  • I would like to give this issue more consideration, but I don't have the time. Here's my current thinking on the topic.

    I'm not sure that you can say that the effect on market value is zero. According to your link, "Some instruments administered as part of this study may contain in whole or in part contents from copyrighted instruments. Reproductions of the instruments that are available through the PHDCN Web site are provided as documentation for the analysis of the PHDCN data." Look at the references right under the copyright warning. If the source is a commercial instrument provider, then I don't think you can say that the market effect is zero. However, if the source is an academic journal, I would say that the market effect is zero. I'm sure that many would disagree.

    I'm also not sure that you can assume that the instruments are factual in nature, although I suspect that they are. Surveys can be quite creative. Some surveys (not the ones in question) are intended to be entertaining. Even if the questions are asking for factual information, the wording of the questions could be quite innovative. Having said that, I tend to agree with you that the instruments in question are factual.

    My gut feeling is that fair use applies in all instances in which the original provider of the survey is not a commercial survey provider. Even then, I think a case could be made for fair use, but I would not make that case because you can expect commercial survey providers to vigorously protect their business.

    I only recall one discussion on this topic in the past. I'm not sure that the discussion is relevant to your question, but it started with my poorly formulated question at http://www.librarycopyright.net/wordpress/punbb/viewtopic.php?id=1430 and continued with my restatement of the problem at http://www.librarycopyright.net/wordpress/punbb/viewtopic.php?id=1432
  • Unfortunately this isn't allowed. Once again, we are treading on the fine line of ethics. The professor could probably get away with using the survey, but the ethical method would be to contact the holder of the copy rite and ask for a collaboration. Unless he is interested in getting head deep in copyright litigation, he may need to create his own survey, where it is possible to be somewhat of a copycat...

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