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I am interested in using a particular figure from the literature, but I do not want to go through the hassle of paying to use a figure. What I am wondering is if I made a similar figure, how easy is it to get in trouble for copyright infringement? If I were to essentially redo the image, it would not be verbatim the same, but very similar depictions would be pulled from the image. As an example, I provided two illustrative examples where the bottom image is an "adapted" version:

The second one is in a published paper as well from a reputable journal, so I am guessing that it should be okay to go about making a similar diagram myself, but again, I wouldn't mind other opinions as too when I might start to tow the line on copyright infringement.

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • Maybe this would fit the Law StackExchange more. Not sure if it’s off-topic for this site, though. – nick012000 Dec 19 '19 at 2:10
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    Are you sure you must pay? If it is for a paper or didactical use probably you just have to ask a permission or just properly cite the reference, respectively. – Alchimista Dec 19 '19 at 9:01
  • Is this for inclusion in a book or a paper? – Buffy Dec 19 '19 at 16:37
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    Does this answer your question? How much do figures need to differ to avoid copyright claims? The two figures you give examples of share the same information, which cannot be copyrighted (but must be cited), but they differ substantially in design. – Bryan Krause Dec 19 '19 at 17:46
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    "I do not want to go through the hassle of paying to use a figure": Have you already asked permissions to reuse? In my experience, many people have a distorted view on this: for many types of publications (e.g. papers in other publisher's journals, dissertations, books), publishers don't charge anything to republish a figure, they just ask one to put a certain notice. That's it. Ask first! – Massimo Ortolano Dec 19 '19 at 19:15
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If this is for a book, rather than for a paper, you have another option. Many book publishers will give you a certain budget for paying royalties on figures and such. Another alternative, if you are to receive royalties from book sales is to have the publisher pay any fees up front and charge it against your future earnings on the book. The former is preferable, of course. But book publishers expect to have to pay for some things such as cover pictures and some internal figures.

I doubt that this is an option for any journal, however.

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If you do the image you then have no problem and under the image description you use :'fuente propia' (self source/made). if you want to use a figure from a magazine/paper/site/etc, then you simply add the proper source and citing in your references. Remember that the difference between plagiarism and fair use is merely citation.

Clarification:

As long as it is cited and properly explained it's a problem, although it would be wise to check the local legislation because it varies from country to country. In my country the law specifies 'copy or reproduction'of the exact same thing, but redoing a new image/chart is no problem.

If its different for your countries then add a comment of what exactly the law in your places say to contribute to responding OPs question.

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    This is absolutely wrong. Citing an image that you boost does not make it fair use, and using it in a publication is most certainly a copyright violation. – Scott Seidman Dec 19 '19 at 16:32
  • @Scott Seidman as long as it is cited and properly explained it's a problem, although it would be wise to check the local legislation because it varies from country to country. In my country the law specifies 'copy or reproduction' but redoing a new image/chart is no problem. What does law in your place say? – deags Dec 19 '19 at 18:17
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    I stand corrected. My statement is only true if the use is in one of the 177 countries on the list shown at copyrighthouse.co.uk/copyright/countries-berne-convention.htm, which are all signatories of the Berne Convention, a treaty that states that a copyright issued in signatory states is valid in signatory states. – Scott Seidman Dec 19 '19 at 18:54
  • @Scott Seidman that also means that there are still countries which are not included . Take your pick, FIFA lists 211 existing countries, ISOs 249, Olympics 206 . At worst it means there are 72 countries with different regulations, not to mention that copyright does not protect ' idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work' copyrighthouse.co.uk/copyright/… , if OP is makign the diagram of an idea it's still fair. – deags Dec 19 '19 at 20:51
  • This is a bad, bad idea. In academic writing you're not doing well if "it's only wrong in most developed countries". – ObscureOwl Dec 20 '19 at 19:39

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