I have drawn a schematic image of a museum object for use in my forthcoming paper. The object itself is over 1000 years old, and my vector drawing is based on a photograph published in an exhibition catalogue some 30 years ago (where the photograph is credited to the museum holding the piece). I will of course give credits to the image source in the caption ("Drawn by the author based on the photograph published in Smith 1985, 88 fig. 88" or "Drawn by the author based on the photograph published in ABC 1985, 88 fig. 88 (@ Museum XYZ)"). However, I would like to ask if I should also obtain a permission for publishing my drawing, as I would do if I republish the photograph itself. Or does the fact that I have drawn the image myself free me from that obligation?

My question is thematically close to the two earlier topics on Academia SE ( How do I give credit to some image I included in my paper? and Recreating images from a source ), however these earlier questions concerned primarily with credits, and my question with getting a permission. Besides in these earlier questions the image sources were drawing, and mine concerns with a photograph as an image source.

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    You need to consult your institution's legal adviser. At least in my local jurisdiction your work would probably be considered a derivative of the photograph and thus needing a license of the photograph that allows you to produce and publish a derivative if the photograph was done in a way that would make it original work (i.e., if it isn't a simple or even automatic scan)..
    – user9482
    Nov 7, 2016 at 11:27
  • Thank you. But is the jurisdiction of my university relevant in this case or is this the jurisdiction of the publisher (located in a different country)? As for the second part of your answer I'd not call the photograph is an original work, it is a routinely done photograph of an archaeological object. However, to my knowledge it is a common practice that the museums regulate the reproductions of museum objects, which are legally in public domain, by claiming the rights to the photographs.
    – greenb
    Nov 7, 2016 at 13:13
  • Your best guess is asking the museum. I could even imagine they might like the graphic and then on their part will ask you if they can use it.
    – skymningen
    Nov 7, 2016 at 13:31
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    Both jurisdictions should matter. A photograph done by a human photographer is usually original work (in the sense that there is artistic expression in perspective and lightning). At least in Germany the threshold for a work work being original is quite low.
    – user9482
    Nov 7, 2016 at 14:24

1 Answer 1


What is your original motivation to create that drawing? Escape reproduction rights? Or else?

The usual practice with museums and objects that are not involved in copyright any more because they are too old, is that you don't pay for the picture of the image if you take the picture of the image yourself. You pay if you use the image that the institution provides.

My guess is that publishing your drawing is not like 'republishing the photograph itself' because your drawing makes an original contribution that goes far beyond reproducing like for like the original photograph.

Agreed with commentators about approaching the institution out of common courtesy, if nothing else.

  • Thanks. The main reason is that the published photo is of low quality. Ordering a new one is difficult (depending on the museum it can be costly or time-consuming or both, but worst of all is that this particular museum can turn my request down or never reply, and I have a fixed deadline to submit my paper). I hope that the request to allow printing my own sketch is less troublesome for the museum and thus my chances are higher. Yet I wonder if abstaining from requesting a permission (lucrative when the museum seems uncooperative) would be considered a breach of the code of conduct.
    – greenb
    Nov 7, 2016 at 16:53
  • They could always claim. Any chance you could take your own photograph of the object, or ask someone who could take the picture for you, so you could use it on a creative commons basis? Speaking of which, ever looked up if there is a photograph of the object available in the public domain online? like in Flickr creative commons?
    – G-E
    Nov 7, 2016 at 16:55
  • I sure did check, but it is currently not on display; hence, no visitors photos.
    – greenb
    Nov 7, 2016 at 17:30
  • tried asking for a storage visit to take your own pictures?
    – G-E
    Nov 7, 2016 at 19:09
  • That could as well be possible, but I was absolutely not planning that, for it incurs substantial travel costs, and I just need a figure for my forthcoming paper. This makes sense to access the material, which is otherwise unreachable, not to make my publication fancier. The drawing costed me less than a working day and would suffice to support the idea I am putting forward.
    – greenb
    Nov 7, 2016 at 22:38

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