While browsing the web on how academics are using open licences in their own work I came across a blog article by Sara Haenzi, a neuroscience PhD student, on how she tackled the issue of image use in an academic paper.
Sara was preparing her paper when she realised that she was using pictures from a published book. The book and the images it contained were protected under copyright, and the illustrative purpose she wanted to use the images for didn’t fall under any copyright exceptions, which meant that she couldn’t use them in her own paper.
Deciding to get rid of those images and instead produce her own, she then came up against a further copyright issue: depending on where the paper was published, the rights for those images could end up with the publisher rather than herself.
I like to use this example in the copyright and licensing training sessions I run with my colleague Eugene Stoica. Eugen provides a great introduction into the theory of copyright and how it affects higher education and academic publishing, then I run through the options and possibilities that open licensed content and open educational resources can provide.
At this point in the session I like to pause and ask what our participants think Sara could do?
What do you think Sara did?
There are a number of options available in this instance. Sarah could have gone online and sought out openly licensed images of the type she needed, although it could take some time to find ones that suited her purpose. She could have contacted the publisher of the book to ask for permission to use the copyrighted images in her paper, although again this could be time consuming even if she was able to find a contact and receive a response.
What Sara did:
Sarah created her own images and published them herself on figshare under a creative commons license, and then cited her own images in the paper.
Sara also created a series of schematised versions for figures where details don’t matter:
In her blog post, she explains that she chose the Figshare hosting site because she really enjoyed the way that it provides version control: for instance, she published all the images of the tadpoles, and then added another set later and so created a version two of tadpole images.
Sara’s story is a great example of taking copyright ownership control of her content and in doing so ensuring that the content will be freely available for anyone else to re-use, re-mix, re-share, create, learn, and educate.