Question about modifying copyrighted illustrations

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  • Hello

    This is my first time visiting this forum and I apologize in advance if this topic has been discussed in another thread and I was not able to find it.

    I am writing a heavily illustrated academic monograph. Many of the illustrations are based on others that have been published elsewhere, but I have modified most of them significantly. I am now beginning the process of sending out permission requests.

    Here's my dilemma. My editor told me that:

    "On the permissions, if you alter a figure 20% or more, you say "adapted from xxx," and don't technically need to request permission."

    Is this correct? I'm hoping so, but I want to do the correct thing. Some of the web sites I've visited to confirm my editor's advice leave me with the impression that permission is always required, regardless of the extent that an illustration is modified.

    Thank you for any help you can give me!
  • IANAL, but I'll try to answer anyway. ^_^

    Permission is not always required if your use falls under an exemption, such as fair use. However, there aren't hard and fast rules of that sort for the creation of derivative works in US copyright law, as far as I know. So your editor would not be correct.
  • I'm glad to see that you are requesting permissions. You should never assume that someone would be willing to share their work with you without recognition, especially if you will be paid royalties for the book. The fact that you've made modification to the creator's original works could bring either a positive or a negative response. Some folks might not approve of the use of their material as you have altered it. So it's best to seek permission in this case.

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