I have a paper that was just accepted (but not yet published) in an open access journal. I am also upgrading my website right now, and I would like to know if I am allowed to post pictures which are in the paper (which I made) on my own personal website. I know that by publishing in a journal, I am giving up some rights over the material to the journal itself, and that certain actions are grounds for the journal to remit the article such as trying to submit the paper to another journal.

Can I use the pictures on my website, now before the paper has been published? Do I have to wait until after the paper is published to use them? Are the rules different for journals that are not open access?

I found the license information:

Ownership of the copyright in the Contribution remains with the Author(s). However, the Author(s)’ re-use rights in the Contribution are subject to the rights and restrictions set forth below in this Section, and in clause 3 and 4(a). After the Author(s) have submitted the Contribution to NPG hereunder, the Author(s)’ rights to re-use the Contribution shall be the same as those set forth in the Creative Commons licence selected above, with the following additional re-use rights:

(a) to reproduce the Contribution in whole or in part in any printed volume (book or thesis) of which they are the Author(s); and

(b) to reuse figures or tables created by the Author(s) and contained in the Contribution in oral presentations and other works created by them.

Notwithstanding, if the entire Contribution is rejected by NPG and not published, all rights under this licence shall revert to the Author(s).

  • 5
    What does the agreement you signed with the publisher say?
    – ff524
    Dec 25, 2016 at 21:02
  • 3
    Expanding on ff524's comment: you mention open access journal, in which case you will usually have to choose a license for your paper (probably later, at the proof stage), such as Creative Commons CC0. Your choice there affects your rights to reuse figures. Dec 25, 2016 at 21:42
  • The first paragraph quoted from the license (a) says that you selected a CC license "above," so we need to know what CC license you selected, and (b) doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The reason it doesn't make sense is that you retain the copyright, and a CC license is a license that you (the copyright holder) offer to other people. And yet it says that you have those rights plus some additional rights. You have those rights simply because you own the copyright. In any case, their concern is clearly about simultaneous submissions. Just don't do that.
    – user1482
    Dec 25, 2016 at 23:58
  • 1
    @BenCrowell: Regarding a): I do not see, why the kind of CC license would matter – you give the reasons yourself in b). — What might be relevant is what “clause 3 and 4(a)” contain. — Regarding b): I agree that this copyright agreement seems to be redundant, if not non-sensical. The “additional re-use rights” should already be contained in the above.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Dec 26, 2016 at 7:38

2 Answers 2


(b) reuse figures [...] created by the Author(s) and contained in the Contribution in [...] other works created by them.

does IMHO cover your pictures.

However, depending on you legislation you may need to get approval (legally speaking: a license) by your coauthors.

  • IIRC in the US each coauthor can excercise the copyright independent of the other coauthors (please correct me if I'm wrong)
  • but e.g. in Germany all coauthors hold the copyright together, and must act together.

I guess that already single figures are works of their own and thus may only have a subset of the paper's coauthors as authors (but IANAL). But IMHO figures in scientific papers still frequently have multiple coauthors: in analogy to what constitutes authorship for a paper, I'd say that everyone who had an important contribution to the figure is coauthor of the figure.


  • A suggests that a hexbinplot is more appropriate than the current pseudo-3d scatter plot. B accordingly changes the figure => I'd say both A and B are coauthors of the final figure.
  • A result plot showing a model and the experimental data: experimental design & measurements by A, theoretical bounds for models by B, and modeling of the experimental data & plotting of all into one figure by C => IMHO makes 3 coauthors.

Note: things may be even more complicated as e.g. in Germany the right for secondary publication according to §38 UrhG refers to the authors, while the commercial rights are typically with the employer.

Practically speaking I guess it is easiest to ask all coauthors of the paper (and if relevant your employer) for permission to re-use the paper or parts of it on the web site. I'd anyways consider piecemeal asking of some coauthors every time you want to put another figure on your blog as impolite.

  • The asker wrote that he created the picture. Can you elaborate why the approval from the co-authors would be needed?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Dec 26, 2016 at 7:33
  • @Wrzlprmft: please have a look at the update. Does that answer your question? Dec 26, 2016 at 14:55
  • Yes and no. I think you are confusing the academic and copyright concepts of authorship. Unless I am very much mistaken, producing the data for some figure grants you academic authorship but not copyright authorship.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Dec 26, 2016 at 15:52
  • @Wrzlprmft: I'd be interested in discussing our respective views on the topic. However I suggest to do thatn in the chat (I opened a chat room) - see you there. Dec 26, 2016 at 17:23
  • Thank you for the information. Some of the figures in the article were assembled by committee. If I understand your answer correctly, any coauthor who contributed to the figure could use the figure in their own works, because of statement (b) in the license. If it was not open access, the rules may be different.
    – Tony Ruth
    Dec 27, 2016 at 0:59

Since you refer to the Nature Publishing Group, now merged with Springer to form Springer Nature, the information on open access found here


says that falling under the CC BY license, anyone (including the authors) can modify, use, redistribute your work, as long as the initial publication is mentioned.

Looking further here http://www.nature.com/openresearch/about-open-access/what-is-open-access/

this was about the gold open access.

The green open access is more restricted (for example the final typeset version cannot be provided on your own homepage) and re-use might be limited. Maybe yours is the green option, as you have extra clauses.

In that case and from what you shared, it seems that as author you can re-use the paper in other printed publications as long as you author them and figures and tables, like the pictures you want to share, can be distributed in any other work of your, including oral presentations.

But you ask something slightly different. Can you use them even before they are published online or in print?

I see this as less a re-use question and more of "would it be considered a double publication". If your article has gone to production, I don't think it can be rejected, and since you signed the open access, it's already valid. The best thing to do is ask the journal directly, still. I think I would wait to publish them after I can provide the citation on my homepage (as even incomplete citation or as DOI).

The rules are definitely different if the journal is not open access or you selected the non open access option. In that case, you have to see what is the exact agreement with the publisher, as you may have signed an exclusive publishing agreement, that doesn't allow any re-creation of your work through free access routes (but there might be exceptions in your favour).

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