I used a number of figures from journal articles in my master's thesis. I cited the sources in all cases, but didn't ask permission (I didn't know at the time that I was supposed to). Many posts on this site recommend asking permission to be "better safe than sorry". In my case, the thesis is already published - should I ask for permission now, even after the thesis is published and for each of the figures?

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    Academically, there is no harm. Nobody is going to revoke your degree because you didn't ask for permission to reproduce properly cited figures. If you're concerned about legal ramifications then you should ask a lawyer.
    – David
    Jun 13 '17 at 0:56
  • I agree with @David. If you properly cite the work in the thesis it does give original credit to the cited authors. I don't think it would be that much serious that he has to talk with a lawyer. I am not sure though.
    – Coder
    Jun 13 '17 at 9:51
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    Can you redraw them yourself? I think you need permission if you are going to "copy-paste" a figure as is.
    – The Guy
    Jun 13 '17 at 11:19
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    Facts are generally not copyrightable, which diminishes the copyright concerns. However, "figures" in this context might mean either numbers or graphs. Graphs are a way of visually presenting data, and this presentation might be copyrightable (if sufficiently non-trivial - a basic bar graph still isn't).
    – MSalters
    Jun 14 '17 at 12:34

I am not sure that one is supposed to ask permission to reproduce a picture from a book/article in their dissertation. From academic point of view, an citation is necessary and sufficient to properly acknowledge the source - otherwise it would be plagiarism.

IANAL, but I don't think there are any copyright issues here, since your thesis is a non-profit academic publication and a relatively small quote from another academic source should be normally treated as a fair use.

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    From the Wikipedia article: "Fair use is a doctrine originating in the law of the United States" . So the situation can be very different depending on the jurisdiction. Jun 13 '17 at 9:49
  • I agree. If you properly cite the work in the thesis it does give original credit to the cited authors.
    – Coder
    Jun 13 '17 at 9:49
  • @magnetometer I completely agree - please share the examples of such different jurisdictions if you are aware of any. Jun 13 '17 at 10:40
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    @magnetometer: "fair use" as a legal concept encompassing academic use and other allowed uses might be American, but academic use is generally allowed. In particular, see Berne Convention Art 10, which refers to "fair practice" and academic use.
    – MSalters
    Jun 14 '17 at 12:42
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    I have been told explicitly (but not by a lawyer) that copy-pasting figures does not fall under fair use, since you're not citing but copying, which is why you should always reproduce the figures instead of copy-pasting them. I have no idea whether that is actually true though, and the worst I can imagine a publisher doing is forcing you to change the figures to ones you made yourself.
    – sgf
    Jun 14 '17 at 22:39

If it concerns a few figures only, it's not a lot of work to ask for permission post hoc. Why not? As you say, better safe than sorry. In general, when you re-print material, you always have to ask permission (if it does not pertain open access material at least).

To make it easier on yourself, I wouldn't even explain the situation to the publisher(s) you are approaching; just ask permission 'for use in a master's thesis'. Often, especially for use in undergrad theses and academic purposes in general, things are pretty lenient.

Many publishers have online resources to swiftly deal with permissions, for example through the Copyright Clearance center.

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    This is a good answer. I'll add that technically, a thesis is a published work with your school as the publisher. So, the normal rules apply and you should get permission. But, the publishing police aren't going to come after you. It's just due diligence.
    – HEITZ
    Jun 21 '17 at 4:59

To be honest, my answer is No need, it is enough that you have specified the source.

I think some aspects of the current legal system, such as copyright, patents, etc, are inhumane and must be corrected. I think the reason you are suffering this weird issue is a reflection of the fact that the existing rules are crazy.

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    Very, very bad advice in general. Bad enough it's worthy of being downvoted. Even if rules are crazy, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble if you ignore them. (Although in this particular case, it is very likely that the OP is legally okay, as what he did probably falls into the category of "fair use". See the other answers.) Jun 14 '17 at 17:57

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