I want to create a graphic in my thesis that is based on a graphic included in a published article. The whole article itself has a creative-commons license. How do I do this correctly? Is there any manual on this exact circumstance?

In detail, my problem unfolds in the following way:

Usually, when citing graphics out of books I use the advice from (German) Scribbr, which tells me to write the following, in case I reimage/redraw a graphics:

"Source: Based on Doe (2010, p. 10)." (I have translated it to english. I usually use German).

Also, when trying to draw graphics based on graphics one finds on the internet, I use the advice from (German) Saferinternet that is itself based on the rules given by the Creative-Commons homepage, e.g. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/:

"Picture: John Doe, licensed under, CC BY 2.0, „The Picture“, edited by Saferinternet.at" (I have translated it to english. I usually use German)

Now in my special case, I would need to somehow merge both approaches, giving something like:

"Source: Based on John Doe, licensed under, CC BY 2.0, „The Picture“, edited by Saferinternet.at"

This seems odd to me. One could e.g. think that the picture I show is licensed under CC-BY 2.0, not the one it is based on.

  • I would not trust anything written on scribbr, with respect to how to do anything. It is just the same business format of uber, applied to producing and proofreading texts. On the other hand, I may trust some of the contributors contributing to scribbr, but I do not know them.
    – EarlGrey
    Jun 7, 2023 at 10:53

1 Answer 1


Please note that a lot of details depends on the specific license. However, for any CC license no sublicensing is allowed, i.e. the original license propagates.

None of the Creative Commons licenses grant permission to sublicense the licensed material. All of the licenses are direct licenses from the original licensor to all recipients. All permissions granted come directly from the original licensor, creating a direct relationship for enforcement and other purposes between the original licensor and all recipients.

So if you can use the derived work under CC 2.0, it means the original work was released under CC 2.0.

Reworking of the saferinternet.at modification of the original figure "The Picture" from Original Author, used under CC BY 2.0

Please have a look at this page to have best practices: https://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/best_practices_for_attribution#This_is_a_great_attribution_for_an_image_you_modified_slightly

Especially relevant is that you are working on a derivative work https://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/Marking_your_work_with_a_CC_license#Adding_a_CC_license_to_your_derivative_work

The CC 2.0 is quite clear, in its definition it states

If you distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly digitally perform the Work or any Derivative Works or Collective Works, You must keep intact all copyright notices for the Work and give the Original Author credit reasonable to the medium or means You are utilizing by conveying the name (or pseudonym if applicable) of the Original Author if supplied; the title of the Work if supplied; to the extent reasonably practicable, the Uniform Resource Identifier, if any, that Licensor specifies to be associated with the Work, unless such URI does not refer to the copyright notice or licensing information for the Work; and in the case of a Derivative Work, a credit identifying the use of the Work in the Derivative Work (e.g., "French translation of the Work by Original Author," or "Screenplay based on original Work by Original Author"). Such credit may be implemented in any reasonable manner; provided, however, that in the case of a Derivative Work or Collective Work, at a minimum such credit will appear where any other comparable authorship credit appears and in a manner at least as prominent as such other comparable authorship credit.

Your work is kind of "German translation of the French Translation by French tranlsation Author of the Work by Original Author".

  • Doesn't the original license only propagate for the "share alike" option in creative commons? And I think you might have misunderstood something. I am not trying to adapt something from saferinternet, that saferinternet themselves have already adapted from some source. The "merging" refers to the fact that there is a creative commons licensed picture that additionally is part of an article, and not just accessible on the internet. Therefore both the Scribbr as the saferinternet suggestion doesn't apply 1:1.
    – manuel459
    Jun 7, 2023 at 12:26

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