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Submission + - Shrinks spring stealth copyright for cognitive imp (nejm.org) 1

nbauman writes: What year is it? What day? What city are we in? Subract 7 from 100. Those are standard questions from the 30-question Mini-Mental State Examination to screen for cognitive impairment.

The Mini-Mental was published in 1975 and widely distributed freely in textbooks, pocket guides, and web sites, and memorized by medical students. Then in 2000 the authors asserted their copyright and started demanding a license of $1.23 per test. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini%E2%80%93mental_state_examination#cite_note-powsner-13 Test kits go for $150 or so, depending on the kit. Some psychologists compare this to stealth patenting — make a test freely available, wait for it to get widely adopted, start charging for it. Psychologists already have copies, but if they use them without a license, they could pay huge damages.

So in March 2011 a Harvard professor developed a new, open access screening tool, the Sweet 16, similar to the Mini-Mental and designed to replace it. Too similar. The authors of the Mini-Mental demanded that the Sweet 16 be removed from the Internet, and it was.

The authors of a New England Journal of Medicine article http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1110652 recommend that screening tools be distributed under copyleft licenses.

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