Using Figures in Publications — No Permission Needed from Major Publishers

Posted May 15th, 2012 by Ellen Duranceau

It’s easier to use figures, illustrations, and tables from major publishers in new scholarly publications because of contracts signed by the MIT Libraries for use of journals on campus. If an MIT author wants to include a figure, illustration, or table from a journal published by Elsevier, Springer, or Wiley, it’s possible to do so without asking permission or paying any fee.

Through the MIT Libraries’ contracts, for example, Springer and Wiley give MIT authors the right “to use, with appropriate credit, figures, tables and brief excerpts … in the Authorized User’s own scientific, scholarly and educational works.”


Elsevier also allows authors similar rights. Authors can “incorporate a maximum of two (2) figures (including charts, tables, graphs and other images) from a journal article or book chapter or five (5) figures per journal volume … in academic works, research papers and scholarly publications and presentations … for non-commercial purposes.”

Elsevier, like Springer and Wiley, stipulates that the user must make appropriate credit, but also makes the point that “if a separate copyright holder is identified in such figure or the figure is a complex illustration,” for example an anatomical drawing, cartoon, map, or photograph, then permission should be sought from the publisher or copyright holder.

In general, permission should be sought if the figure, table, or illustration indicates a copyright holder other than the publisher.

If a publisher wants evidence of the permission to reuse figures, tables, or illustrations from journals published by Elsevier, Springer, or Wiley, authors can indicate permission was granted through a license signed by MIT with the publisher for access to the journals at MIT. MIT authors may point journal editors to the MIT web page describing this permission.

If you have any questions, please contact copyright-lib@mit.edu

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