Q: Do I need to take permission to use a scale that was published in a paper?
To evaluate my research outcome, I want to use a scale that was published in a paper. So, I sent an email to the author of the paper to get permission for its reuse, but the mail was returned as an unknown destination. Note: the paper was published more than 10 years ago. I wish to know: do I need to take permission to use this scale?
Firstly, as your mail bounced and as the paper is more than 10 years old, it may be that the author has changed their mail ID, their affiliation, or perhaps even their field. Sometimes, the copyright/license may lie with the journal rather than with the author. So, you could try writing to the journal, if you haven’t already.
Sometimes, the copyright/license may lie with the organization where the author developed the scale or even with the entity that manufactured the scale. So, if this information is there in the paper (or somewhere else that you can find), you could try contacting them too.
Also, you could see if the article mentions something about the use of the scale. As this case study on the Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE) site about licenses for using published scales states, “generally, if scales are in the public domain, and there is no explicit licensing information, they are published with the intention that other scholars will use them.” In other words, if you wish to simply use the scale for your calculations and not feature it in your study, it should be fine for you to use it with just a citation.
However, to be on the safe side, I would suggest that you write to the journal where the original article was published and seek their advice. In case they do not offer a clear solution, you can consider discussing this with the editor of your target journal.