Q: Can I replace an image at the proofing stage before publication?
My manuscript was accepted by an international journal. After acceptance, I found that I used the same image with a published Japanese paper. In order to avoid duplicate publication and copyright infringement, I want to replace the image. Can I replace the image at the proof stage before publication?
Ideally, journal editors don't encourage making changes at the proof stage because the paper has already been reviewed and finalized. Why don't you try contacting the Japanese journal where you have published the same image and request permission to reuse the image? Journals generally don't have any issues with giving permission as long as you cite the source. Once you receive permission, you can just add the citation (since that's a minor change) at the proofing stage. Since that's a relatively minor change, I don't think the editor will mind. However, I would still recommend informing the editor that you have made this change.
If, however, for some reason you do not get permission from the Japanese journal or if you anyways wish to replace the image, you should first write to the editor explaining why you think making the change is necessary. Once you get the editor's approval, you can go ahead and make the change.