CC BY-SA requires that you distribute anything derivative of the work with the same license.

I found a very nice but complex diagram (let's say a CAD model) under this license and I would like to modify it to add the relevant information on top of it for an introduction to a paper. Can I use this image on a scientific paper in any case, or I must make sure that the paper itself is under CC BY-SA?

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    If you publish it in an Open Access journal, why not? – Oleg Lobachev Jul 3 '18 at 12:37
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    @OlegLobachev well, not all open Access journals are CC BY-SA 3.0. – Ander Biguri Jul 3 '18 at 12:38
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    No, but one can inform her-/himself, or even ask the editors. They might be willing to amend the licence in this separate case. There is also the question if it is possible to publish something under CC-BY-SA-NC what is partially under CC-BY-SA. This is however a wrong venue for such questions, I guess. – Oleg Lobachev Jul 3 '18 at 13:47
  • This question might be better suited for law.stackexchange.com – Darren Ong Jul 4 '18 at 7:27
  • @DarrenOng or opensource.stackexchange.com, but I saw that there are few academic related CC questions in Academia so I went for it. – Ander Biguri Jul 4 '18 at 8:32

The licence terms of CC-BY-SA are quite clear on the matter (bold by me):

Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

You can use this image and modify it, but you must give appropriate credit and indicate the changes made. Most importantly, the article will have to be under a CC-BY-SA. Or at least the image must be under it. But I doubt it would be efficient to have part of an article under a licence and part of it under another.


Of course your revised figure must be released under a compatible license. However, I doubt that the paper as a whole can be considered a "derived work" under copyright law. Of course it is possible that the paper focuses so much on that figure that it actually is derived from it, but that seems unlikely.

  • This is is fact what I had in mind when asking the question. Is the paper considered derived work, even if the figure is just mildly relveant to what the paper shows? – Ander Biguri Jul 3 '18 at 12:33
  • @AnderBiguri, that seems unlikely. However if the figure itself is essential (you indicate not) then it might fall into a different category. If you could re-do the paper without the figure does it have the same sense? Of course, the law is the law. You can, of course, contact Creative Commons directly: creativecommons.org/about/contact – Buffy Jul 3 '18 at 12:39
  • Yes, my research is not doomed without the figure, I am asking more to know the answer than because I need the figure – Ander Biguri Jul 3 '18 at 12:39

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