Copyrighted material may not be used in master's theses without permission. Such material are for example different kinds of pictures, drawings, maps and photographs (Copyright Act, Section 1)
However, works of art made public and permanently placed at a public place may be reproduced in pictorial form with a text in a critical or scientific presentation (Section 25), when the picture has a material connection with the text and it is used to illustrate or clarify the text.
Begin the acquisition of permissions in good time, preferably immediately when you find a picture that you want to use in your thesis. If you get no reply to your permission request or if the reply is negative, do not include the picture in your thesis.
You can usually begin requesting a permission by contacting the publisher.
Most publishers offer a service with which you can request a permission and it is granted immediately, for example RightsLink. If such a service is available, you are advised to use it. For online images with no copyright information available contact the webmaster in question.
Can students include in their master's theses images, tables or diagrams from different sources without asking for permission?
When using photographs or other images or descriptive drawings that are regarded literary or artistic works, permission must be requested from the photographer, maker or publisher of the image and the image must have a mention that it is published with the maker's permission.
If the maker of a work has been dead for more than 70 years, the copyright is no longer valid and the image can be used without separate permission.
Diagrams or tables that are not regarded literary or artistic works can be used when the original maker and source are mentioned.
What are regarded literary or artistic works?
Copyright protects the original expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. Generally the criteria applied when determining whether something is regarded a literary or artistic work are the independence, originality and creativity of the expression. Even though a work does not meet these criteria, it may be protected by copyright-related rights, for example in the case of photographs.
In general technical drawings, tables and diagrams are not regarded works, but it in accordance with good scientific practice it is customary to ask for permission even in these cases. The original maker and source must be mentioned even if the image does not meet the criteria for literary or artistic works.
For further information see opinion 2012:1 of the Copyright Council.
Is permission required for using maps?
If I draw a similar picture/diagram myself, do I need permission from the maker of the original?
Yes you do, if an original picture or diagram is regarded literary or artistic work, since drawing a picture that is similar to the original is considered creating a work, for which you need permission. If you draw a totally new picture that cannot be connected with the original permision is not required.