I am writing a blog post citing several paywalled papers. Could I also put graphs, diagrams or photos from these papers in my blog post under fair use?

My field is medical object detection and I would like to show examples from the papers where the authors show in which cases their algorithms fail.

  • Whether or not there is a paywall is irrelevant.
    – user16092
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 11:41

2 Answers 2


Whether the articles were paywalled or not, you should resolve your problem in three steps:

  1. Content license: check if you can find a version of the figure with liberal licensing terms. The paywalled version certainly does not fit the bill… but you may find the same figure (or a similar one) in a pre-print version of the paper, under a different license.

  2. Obtaining permission for use: even if the content is not available under a free license, the publisher can grant you permission to reproduce the image. Nowadays, many publishers use a nice interface called Rightslink. If you look for example at this random article from the American Chemical Society (which is far from being the most liberal of publishers), you can see a “Rights and permissions” link. In that particular example, the publisher will grant you reproducing of up to 4 figures of the paper on the internet, even on a for-profit website.

  3. Fair use: the fair use doctrine is a tricky, murky area of US copyright law. It's not as wide as people generally assume. It has to be judged on a case-by-case basis: see here and there. See here a notorious case from back in 2007 which is very close to your particular case.

    So, my own conclusion on fair use: it's nice in principle, but unless you're ready to hire a lawyer to double-check (or get formal training on that), just play it safe.

  • Meh, I tried Rightslink on like 10 papers and they always wanted $75 for publishing it for a few month only :(
    – Jean
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 15:17

Personally I have contacted the first or authors directly and asked them for permission and most of them have replied within 2–3 days. Also my librarian had advised me to refer to Sherapa/Romeo (a listing of journals and their policies). Some journals are very lenient and wouldn't mind using images if you have explicit permission from author. Important thing to note is once journal is published, the author waives away all his rights and only journal paper has rights on the work.

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