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I'm writing my dissertation and I have drawn a diagram explaining how a algorithm works. Recently, I've found an ebook, legally obtained, illustrating the same algorithm, but with more details and better drawing.

Is it ok to use their figure instead of mine if I properly give the source?

Here is the copyright rules (highlight is mine):

The Author(s) 2014
This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. Exempted from this legal reservation are brief excerpts in connection with reviews or scholarly analysis or material supplied specifically for the purpose of being entered and executed on a computer system, for exclusive use by the purchaser of the work. Duplication of this publication or parts thereof is permitted only under the provisions of the Copyright Law of the Publisher’s location, in its current version, and permission for use must always be obtained from Springer. Permissions for use may be obtained through RightsLink at the Copyright Clearance Center. Violations are liable to prosecution under the respective Copyright Law. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. While the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication, neither the authors nor the editors nor the publisher can accept any legal responsibility for any errors or omissions that may be made. The publisher makes no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein.

I'm asking because of the highlighted excerpt:

Exempted from this legal reservation are brief excerpts in connection with reviews or scholarly analysis or material supplied specifically for the purpose of being entered and executed on a computer system, for exclusive use by the purchaser of the work.

I think my dissertation fits the "reviews or scholarly analysis" rule, so is it ok? This juridical part is very delicate.

Update
I have contacted the book's author; he was really nice and said that there are no problems of using his illustration. But, he advised me to contact the publisher (he even pointed me a page to do that). As the page was not working well, I sent an email to the publisher's staff to which they answered asking me some information:

  • your name, address, and email address;
  • ISBN of the book requested or journal title, volume and issue number, author/editor, year of publication of book or journal;
  • which material you would like to use indicating page numbers and figures numbers;
  • will your publication be open access?
  • purpose of using Springer-Verlag's material;
  • number of copies of your publication to be printed;
  • name of your publisher or the company/institute.

Now, I'm just waiting for their answer.

Update 2

The publisher gave me permission and I added the image to my dissertation. Here are the conditions that I had to follow:

Thank you for getting back to me. With reference to your request to reuse material in which Springer Science+Business Media controls the copyright, our permission is granted free of charge under the following conditions:

Springer material

  • represents original material which does not carry references to other sources (if material in question refers with a credit to another source, authorization from that source is required as well);

  • requires full credit (book title, year of publication, page, chapter title, name(s) of author(s), original copyright notice) is given to the publication in which the material was originally published by adding: "With kind permission of Springer Science+Business Media";

  • may not be altered in any manner. Any other abbreviations, additions, deletions and/or any other alterations shall be made only with prior written authorization of the author and/or Springer Science+Business Media.

This permission

  • is non-exclusive;
  • is valid for one-time use only for the purpose of defending your thesis and with a maximum of 100 extra copies in paper.
  • includes use in an electronic form, provided it is an author-created version of the thesis on his/her own website and his/her university’s repository, including UMI (according to the definition on the Sherpa website: http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/);
  • is subject to courtesy information to the corresponding author;
  • is personal to you and may not be sublicensed, assigned, or transferred by you to any other person without Springer's written permission;
  • is valid only when the conditions noted above are met.

Permission free of charge does not prejudice any rights we might have to charge for reproduction of our copyrighted material in the future.

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    Why not ask th publisher? If they send you a quote you can decide whether you are better off with your own drawing - if they send you the immediate OK, you know for sure you are fine. – cbeleites Jan 23 '14 at 23:47
  • Good idea, I will ask him. – Yamaneko Jan 24 '14 at 8:46
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    Update, please? – Ellen Spertus Nov 7 '18 at 19:16
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    @EllenSpertus thank you for the reminder! I've added an update. – Yamaneko Nov 16 '18 at 15:37
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In fact, I think that your proposed use would not fall under "fair use", in the sense that you are not addressing the other authors' work, but merely (!) using some of their stuff. The fruits of their labors... which is what various reasonable notions of intellectual property are meant to protect.

Of course, if you write the copyright owners and they say "go ahead", you are legally fine...

However, legal correctness and moral/ethical correctness are not the same.

Might be better to take the trouble to make your own graphic that is good enough. At the very least, in addition to investigating literal copyright issues, you might contact the people who made the graphic and ask their permission. If everyone says "go ahead", out of generosity or whatever, then you are truly fine.

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    That makes sense. It's not fair usage because I'm not expanding or reviewing what the figure refers to in the book. The book's figure is part of a review of an algorithm--which I'm reviewing too. On the other hand, it was interesting to get this nuance that, if the book was about the algorithm and I was reviewing it, then it would be ok to use their figure. The ethical correctness was another question that was bugging me. I'm going to ask the authors if I can use the image. Thanks! – Yamaneko Jan 24 '14 at 9:03
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    You can still use the data in the figure, as long as you cite the book as a resource, so you can redo the figure yourself. That's comparison of your results with theirs, which is completely fine. – yo' Jan 24 '14 at 17:41
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If you are critiquing the image or expanding on what was said then technically you are in the clear. In the real world it comes down to what Springer decides and the country that you are in. The exemption there is not really an exemption in the US. That is copyright law, the part called fair use. How the courts see it if you were sued is a different issue and Springer has the deep pockets here and could make your suffer no matter what. Whether it is worth it to Springer depends on the circulation of your thesis. If you can reproduce the graphic yourself you will obviously be better off.

  • These are good points. I think mine isn't a "fair use" because I'm reviewing the same algorithm that the authors of the book reviwed. I'll keep improving my graphic, maybe the authors answer me. There is only one point remaining. As I'm from a different country and the circulation of my dissertation probably wouldn't reach farther, technically I think it wouldn't be a problem. The real problem would be the ethical side, as this could reflect badly on the community. Just sharing these thoughts in case someone faces the same dilemma. Thanks! – Yamaneko Jan 24 '14 at 9:26
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I think the more relevant part of the rules is this:

Duplication of this publication or parts thereof is permitted only under the provisions of the Copyright Law of the Publisher’s location, in its current version, and permission for use must always be obtained from Springer.

If you use the figure, you are duplicating a part of the text. The relevant copyright law is that of where the publisher is located, not your country. Finally, regardless of this, they say "permission for use must always be obtained from Springer", which seems pretty clear. This doesn't necessarily mean you will need to pay to use the figure, but you do need the publisher's permission.

"Brief excerpts" in your bolded text probably refers to a short quotation, which of course would need to be indicated as a quotation and referenced.

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    Just because they say you need their permission doesn't mean that you actually do (either legally or ethically). – Nate Eldredge Jan 24 '14 at 13:46
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No one seems to have mentioned this: of course legally you should contact the publisher, which in most probability is the copyright holder, but surely you should also ask the author how he or she feels about it. I would not like seeing my work being used without having been contacted.

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