13.2. Seeking permissions

It is critical that task content does not enter the CamCOPS code base (repository) without appropriate permissions.

Developers should document ownership and permissions carefully, including dates of correspondence etc. Most things that are written are subject to copyright, so a lack of copyright information usually means you have to hunt for the owner, not that there isn’t one!

If in doubt about permissions for open-source reproduction, but you’re sure your institution is allowed to reproduce it, keep task content separate and install it on a per-institution basis.

Here’s a specimen e-mail seeking permission from a copyright holder:

Dear XXX,

We are very interested in incorporating XXX_TASK_XXX into CamCOPS (https://camcops.readthedocs.io/), and wonder whether you might permit this.

Our understanding of the copyright status of XXX_TASK_XXX is:

  • details: who owns the copyright?
  • details: what are the known licensing terms?

May we ask if that is correct?

CamCOPS is free and open-source software for capturing structured data relevant to psychiatry directly from patients, clinicians, and researchers. It was developed in the University of Cambridge, UK, and is in use for clinical and research purposes. Data flow is entirely under the control of the hosting institution. CamCOPS implements both open/free tasks and closed/restricted tasks using one of the following methods:

  • Open/free tasks are embedded into CamCOPS directly; this is our preferred method.
  • Some tasks may be permitted to some institutions but not others. These can be implemented via a public “skeleton” in CamCOPS (with no task content) and a “plugin” containing the task content (e.g. text for a questionnaire) that licensed users can add to their CamCOPS installation, converting the skeleton into a fully working copy.
  • Some closed tasks do not permit electronic reproduction. Sometimes, these still benefit from an electronic data capture “skeleton” that never includes task content, but is still preferable to paper capture and manual (laborious and error-prone) transcription. The electronic skeleton can then be used in conjunction with a licensed paper copy of the task.

In addition, all CamCOPS tasks can be restricted if necessary according to flags that the end user can set: clinical use? Research use? Educational use? Commercial use? For example, a task can be restricted to noncommercial use only (though this relies on end-user honesty and end-user liability).

Would it be permissible for us to incorporate XXX_TASK_XXX into CamCOPS? We’d be most grateful.

Thank you for your time in considering this.

Yours sincerely,

XXX