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I am almost ready to publish my research project. In my project, I used different clipart and created a couple of figures for my participants to view. For example, I created an image of a person walking in a park. In this image, the park consisted of trees, the sun, and grass. These are all separate images I downloaded online. As you can see, I put multiple images together and created my stimuli photos.

Now the biggest challenge for me is that I can't publish these figures in academic journals because I can't receive permission to do so. First, I can't find the original authors of the clipart. Second, most clipart has a "personal use only license". I don't want to violate any copyright. However, I desperately need to publish them with my work because it will provide good visual representation to the reviewers and the audience.

A prof suggested me to ask someone to redraw the figures I created. And put notes like the "this is reproduced version of the original image, the content of the original image is copyright protected". I'm wondering whether this makes sense? I think I do have the copyright of the figures I created, but I don't have the copyright of the images that were used to create the figure.

As you can see, this is a very complicated situation. I really need advice. If you have any other ideas, please let me know. I would really appreciate it. I realized I should have thought more about this when I first created them. I will never do this again.

Thank you in advance.

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You can buy commercial images reasonably cheaply. These images are intended to be used in any kind of publication and licensed for such use. For example for £29 I can download 5 images, with a license to print up to 500,000 copies, and license to combine these images.

Of course these images are under copyright, but practically everything is. Important is that you have a license.

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The images you described does not seem too complex. You can either draw similar pictures yourself or ask someone to do it. For a skilled cartoonist it would probably take less time than you spent typing this question.

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Describe them in words instead, along with where and how you found them and the process that you used to generate the composite images. Even if the images themselves are copyright protected, your methodology isn’t. Ultimately, what’s important is reproducibility- you need to include enough detail that someone who reads your paper could attempt to reproduce your study.

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You can describe the images, only in words, as another answer points out. Additionally, you can recreate them with appropriately licensed material. If it is a matter of showing the reader an example of what your subjects were shown, i.e., the contrast, colors, objects; you can then make another variant of this for the publication with an explanation that this is an example/recreation of the type of stimulus shown. This is not all that different than using psuedo code vs. actual code in a paper. Your goal is to accurately, clearly, effectively communicate what you did and how you did it, to your audience.

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