Adapted Images and Figures

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  • A student wants to use a figure from someone else's article in their thesis. (They say they do not plan to publish, but our insitituion does place all theses in the PQ database.)

    The figure they want to use is from a research article, and in the caption it states "Adapted from ___." Does the student need to obtain copyright permission from the copyright owner of the adapted figure ONLY, or ALSO from the copyright owner of the original figure?

    They do not want to use the original figure (partly because it is not in a language they speak or read). 

    I did find an Open Access article that adapts the figure, but they adapted it from the adapted figure, not the origin (and it doesn't appear 'adapted' so much as 'copied/used'). Does the OA license of an article also apply to the figures in the aritcle? If it does, the license is a CC BY-NC 4.0 - so does using the figure in a thesis or dissertation count as commercial use? Thanks!

  • Hello. There are a number of possibilities so this is what I would recommend:

    First, I would assume that the use of the figure is fair use and that permission is not required. Educational, non-profit, no effect on the market, already published in a number of resources, perhaps thin copyright.

    Second, I would cite the figure as an adaptation from the original. Cover your bases both ways.

    I would not assume anything about the figure placed in an OA article. 

    I don't think the use of the figure is commercial.


    Good luck!

    Carrie Russell




  • Thank you!

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