In the seminal paper, "ImageNet Classification with Deep Convolutional Neural Networks", there is an image of Alexnet as shown below:

enter image description here

Is it allowed to reproduce a copy of the image or is it protected under copyright laws? If it is not allowed and we redraw the image and attribute it correctly, is it allowed to publish the image?

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    This is a question about copyright law, not really AI. The short answer is that the image is protected by copyright. You need permission to use it. In some cases, permission is granted via a license available to the public. If you have not received permission from the author, nor received any public license to use the image, then you should probably not use the image. In some cases, people break copyright rules - technically the author can ask you to remove the image or take you to court if you have done so. AI stack exchange cannot really advise you on specific use cases or specific images. Oct 24, 2018 at 7:42
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    @NeilSlater I suspect this would fall under "fair use" in most cases in the US, depending on how the excerpted material is being utilized. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use
    – DukeZhou
    Oct 24, 2018 at 20:06
  • I'm not sure migrating this to law was such a good idea. While he uses the phrase "Is it legal" in the question, the question is probably really more about issues like academic honesty, plagiarism, and accepted norms of in research and scientific publication. I suspect the OP is one of the many people who don't understand that academic honesty and copyright have almost nothing to do with each other. (To the OP: Is this really a legal question? Or is this really a question about what is permissible in an academic or research publishing setting?) Oct 24, 2018 at 20:27
  • @DavidSchwartz I'm developing a patent and I want to refer to AlexNet as an example of a CNN that illustrates intent. I'm in no way claiming ownership and Alex Krizhevsky et al. are cited, so it is about what is permissible but also has a legal element. For example, if it might be permissible from the authors viewpoint but viewed as illegal but the publishing house. I definitely don't want to break the law and get sued.
    – SeanJ
    Oct 25, 2018 at 11:11

1 Answer 1


The image is protected by copyright. Unless it has been released under a license which permits reuse, or you have permission from the copyright holder (normally the artist), you cannot reproduce it without violating copyright, unless one of the exceptions to copyright applies. These vary in different countries.

Of course if you obtain permission there is no problem.

In the US "fair use" is the most common exception. Whether fair use applies is determined on a case-by-case basis, in a way highly dependent on the specific facts of the situation. Somewhat similar laws in other countries (e.g. "fair dealing") have quite different provisions.

A redrawing modeled on this image would be a derivative work of the image, and creating it would be just as much an infringement of copyright as a straight photocopy.

However, copyright does not protect facts, as opposed to words and images. If a new diagram is created, based on a factual description of Alexnet, but NOT based on this image, that would not be an infringement. (Edit A "factual description" would include facts conveyed by the original diagram.)

At least in the US, if the diagram is a 'natural and obvious" way of representing the facts, and there are no or few other ways to represent them, it would not be protected. The laws of other countries are different on this point.

  • "A redrawing modeled on this image would be a derivative work of the image, and creating it would be just as much an infringement of copyright as a straight photocopy." The factual information in the drawing is not protected by copyright. Taking facts from the drawing and redrawing it would not infringe the copyright in the drawing which only covers that specific creative way of presenting the facts. Oct 25, 2018 at 17:28
  • @David Schwartz : Yes. I said exactly tha tin the 5th paragraph of my answer. If I was unclear, facts can derive from the diagram just as much as from any written description. Oct 29, 2018 at 16:05

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