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I recently submitted an article containing several images from other publications. I made sure to give the appropriate attribution both for open access images (including stating e.g. CC BY 4.0), as well as those I asked permission for. From those sources I had to ask permission for, some had clear and lengthy requirements as to how I had to attribute (e.g. permission obtained from / name of journal / name of paper / year / name of all authors / copyright / copyright holder).

After my article got accepted, I received a message from the journal editor to proofread the article and to change the image attribution and limit them to: "reprinted with permission from [1]. Copyright / year / copyright holder", and even only "reprinted from [1]" for open access images.

In short, the journal asked me to omit a lot of the information that I am actually supposed to (or even legally required to, if I understand correctly) attribute to use the images in question in a sound and appropriate way.

So my question is: can I insist that the correct attribution remains with the images even if this is against journal practice, or is this something that regularly happens and in case the copyright holders complain, the journal (and not I, the author) can be held responsible?

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I don't know whether you can insist on the exact wording the copyright holders asked for, or whether you should, or whether you or the journal faces legal consequences if you don't.

I suggest you write the editor quoting the specific requirements directly as they came to you in support of your wish to honor those requests. If the editor says no and there are consequences that's the journal's problem, not yours.

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    Keep copies of all communications so that if, in the future, the copyright holders complain, then you have proof that the journal editor is responsible (and not you). – Joel Reyes Noche May 19 at 14:43
  • Depends on who has the copyright to the article. Some journals leave the authors' copyright intact, and then it's not clear who is responsible for the attribution format. – Captain Emacs May 19 at 15:41
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    @CaptainEmacs: It doesn't matter who owns the copyright to the article. If the journal publishes the article, and the article infringes on somebody else's copyright, then the journal is in the wrong (unless the author signs an indemnification agreement or something - OP should take care to avoid doing that!). – Kevin May 19 at 21:25
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One option you have is to go back to the copyright holders and tell them of the issue, including what the editor suggests. That might make the problem go away or, at least, reduce it a bit.

With that information you can go back to the editor and try to negotiate any additional issues. It takes a bit of time, of course, but so do most things in publishing.

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