A Blog Around The Clock

Pedro did some digging to figure out what are various journals’ policies regarding use of images – figures from the papers – in blog posts. It is all very vague and most journals do not have anything specifically targeting online republication, but the Fair Use rules should apply.

I have often used images from papers in my posts, usually only one, sometimes two from a single paper, which should be OK under the Fair Use system. In some cases I used figures that are many decades old, reprinted in every book and textbook in the field, used in every chronobiology college course in the world, and seen many times on slides at conference talks. Such images are now informally considered a common property – they are the icons of the field.

I have used more than 1-2 figures from a paper ONLY when I wrote posts about my own papers. But I do have the originals so I can always claim the ownership, or at least state that they were “redrawn after” an image in the paper (who cares what is redrawn after what and which image chronologically came first?).

Anyway, what do you do? Do you use sites like Free Biomedical Images?


  1. #1 cfeagans
    March 14, 2007

    Here’s an interesting discussion on Fair Use which specifically discusses thumbnails: http://www.utsystem.edu/ogc/intellectualproperty/portland.htm

    It seems to be backed up by the 9th US Court of Appeals decision reported on here: http://news.com.com/2100-1025_3-1023629.html

    The key is thumbnails with reduced size, IMO. I usually try to keep it around 125 to 250 pixels max, depending on the original size/resolution of the photo.

    It gets difficult, however, if you are trying to show a graph or data points from the article. In such cases, perhaps it’s just easiest to email the author(s) to request permission, which may be an opportunity to get additional comment that can be used in the post.

  2. #2 Abel Pharmboy
    March 14, 2007

    cfeagans: Remember, of course, that we as authors usually sign away copyrights to the publisher as a function of publication (when we are also handing them the check for page charges, as well). Therefore, if any permissions are needed the authors sadly have no authority to grant permission, as I understand.

  3. #3 Maria
    March 15, 2007

    I am new to blogging and this is a concern. Pictures certainly help in getting points across. I am concerned as to the limits that I can use a picture or pictures for my posts. Thanks for the info.

  4. #4 nbm
    March 21, 2007

    I used a figure (in my post no. viii) from an Australian study and marked it “used by permission”. Truth be told, I wrote the author and she said it was ok by her. She didn’t mention the thought that a journal may hold the copyright, and neither did I. He he.

  5. #5 martin
    May 5, 2007

    “It is all very vague and most journals do not have anything specifically targeting online republication”

    All the images on http://www.biomedimages.com are licenced under open licences which mean they can be freely reproduced in all media as long as the licence terms (which generally just require a citation) are followed. There is no reliance on “Fair Use”.

    “She didn’t mention the thought that a journal may hold the copyright, and neither did I. He he.”
    This I think is the root of the problem; rarely there might be a good argument for publishing in a non-free journal, but often the decision on where to publish is made without properly considering if there is a suitable free/open journal available.

    I would like to see all publicly funded science published in open journals, or at least where it is not require those responsible for the decision to make a statement explaining their decision.