Permissions Guide for Authors


Often, when composing an article, authors include content such as figures, tables or extensive quotations that have been reproduced from third-party sources rather than created specifically for the manuscript in question. In such cases, the authors must ensure they have the permission to reproduce third-party material, whether it was created by someone else or by themselves for an earlier published work. Sometimes the authors will need to request such permission from the person or organisation that holds the reproduction rights of the material; sometimes such permissions are explicitly granted without the need to formulate a request. Permissions may also be required when dealing with privacy issues.

This page aims to help authors understand the requirements to reuse non-original content, and to obtain permissions when necessary.

Authors' responsibilities

It is the authors' responsibility to check whether any material submitted is subject to copyright or ownership rights, and to obtain appropriate permissions when necessary. GPPS can assist authors in determining whether or not a permission is required, but it will not request or pay for permissions on their behalf.

The authors must provide proof to GPPS that they have all the required permissions before publication of their article.

Rights required by GPPS

Whenever permissions are required, the authors must ensure they allow GPPS to publish and distribute the article:

GPPS will not be able to publish the material if the permission doesn't cover these rights.

Reproducing third-party material

When are permissions needed?

Permissions must generally be granted for the reuse of any substantial part of material protected by copyright (except in some cases outlined below, which would be assessed on a case-by-case basis). Copyright protects, for a limited period of time, the original expression of ideas and facts in a tangible medium. This typically includes literary works (in a broad sense), illustrations, charts, graphs, tables, photographs and maps from published or unpublished sources as well as works of art.

There is no objective measure of what constitutes a substantial part. Substantiality takes into account for example the significance of the extract as well as its length, and is a matter of fact and degree.

The majority of online content is copyrighted and its reuse governed by the same rules as any copyrighted work. A website's terms and conditions often indicate the permitted uses and various reproduction restrictions.

Requesting permissions

Permission should be sought from the relevant rights holder to reproduce any substantial part of a copyrighted work.

Copyright protection is granted automatically to the creator of the work (that is, the person who recorded it, usually the author) or their employer. The copyright owner can then sell or licence their copyright in whole or in part so that different people or organisations may hold different rights to the same work (e.g. rights in a geographical area, in a language, in a medium).

In practice, when dealing with published material, the relevant rights holder is usually the publisher, or sometimes the author (or their employer). The publisher typically has the exclusive right to grant the permission whether or not it owns the copyright. In doubt, it is best to contact both the original author and the publisher.

Authors may contact the rights holder directly by email or letter to request a permission.

Alternatively, a number of online licensing services automate and speed up that process, and are used effectively by many publishers. For example:

For other types of material, it is likely the rights holder will have to be contacted directly.

If a copyright owner cannot be identified, authors can try to locate the rights holder by contacting organisations such as The Society of Authors, WATCH, the Author's Registry, and the Author's Licensing and Collecting Society who may be able to provide assistance.

When requesting permissions, it is important to state what material the request pertains to (precisely), where it will be reproduced, as well as GPPS's requirements to reproduce the material (see Rights required by GPPS).

Depending on the copyright holder and the material, permissions may be provided free of charge or incur a cost. It is the author's responsibility to cover such charges.

Authors must clear all necessary permissions prior to publication. GPPS will need to see written evidence that the required permissions have been obtained.

Requesting permissions may not be necessary

There are a number of cases where authors do not need to request permission, or do not need permission at all, to reproduce material. It is important not to apply for permission when it is not required. A permission usually doesn't need to be requested in the following instances:

  • The material is open access or open source (material available under a Creative Commons license for example). A blanket permission to use and reuse the content is granted to anyone by the copyright holder by way of a public licence. However, this licence may include restrictions on reuse and should be checked carefully. If the public licence doesn't allow the type of reuse the author or publisher needs, a separate permission should be obtained from the rights holder.
  • The author reproduces their own content. This is not systematic, but often authors who sign a copyright transfer agreement or licence with a publisher retain the right to reuse their original content in future publications without asking permission. Again, restrictions usually apply and authors may still need to request permission from the publisher of their material.
  • The material is in the public domain. No copyright exists and therefore no permission needs to be sought. This includes works whose copyright has expired, but note that because our journals are available globally, copyright must have expired in all countries for GPPS to be able to reproduce them without permission (the duration of copyright protection is not the same in all countries). Works from the US federal government and most of its agencies and institutions are in the public domain in the US. However, the US government may claim copyright of some works abroad. In such cases, permissions should be obtained.
  • The reuse is covered by fair use or fair dealing exceptions to copyright protection. The applicability of these exceptions is determined by the purpose of the reuse and a number of factors such as extent of the extract, and should not be relied upon. In the context of scholarly publications, the principal (or only) relevant permitted purpose is critique or review.
  • The author expresses non-original facts and ideas in their own way. For example creating an original figure or table from data or factual information that was not in figure or table format previously does not require permission. However, the source should be credited.
  • The material is not considered to constitute a substantial part of the original work, for example short extracts of text like quotations.

The Copyright Licensing Agency has a handy search tool that help determine the permitted uses of works.

Privacy issues

Patient consent

Study participants have a right to privacy. Authors should make every effort to ensure that any personal and identifiable information of the individuals who took part in the study is removed. In all cases when any sensitive material, such as a patient's images (even if the face is not visible), must be included in a publication, the authors must obtain written consent from the individual, or their legal guardian. However, patient consent is not required for non-identifiable images such as x-ray images or pathology slides, provided these do not contain any identifying details.

Photographs of people

People in photographs may have a right to privacy. In general, authors should obtain permission from people depicted in photographs to publish them. If the image is a commissioned or stock photograph, the release has often, but not always, been arranged by the photographer.

Photographers, like all creators of copyrighted material, have a moral rights of integrity which forbids the modification of their work without consent.


It is advisable to obtain a release from interviewees when conducting research interviews. The release should cover the use of the interview material in a publication.


Authors should always credit the original source and creators of the reproduced material regardless of whether or not permission is needed.

The attribution line should usually include the following details: author's name, citation of the original material, a link to the original material (if appropriate), date of publication, how the material was reused (e.g. reproduced, modified), and who gave permission. For example: Reproduced from Author(s), "Article title," Journal name, year, Volume (issue): page numbers, DOI, with permission from Publisher.

Rights holders will sometimes stipulate how they want the source to be attributed; authors must adhere to these requirements.

For open access material, the licence under which it is distributed should usually be mentioned with a link to the licence wording.


Copyright Licensing Agency - provides a handy search tool that help determine the permitted uses of specific works such as books and journal articles. - provides publisher-specific information on how authors can share and reuse their published material. - is an online repository of free-use images, sound and other media files. - contains details of the most widely used open access licences. - a service from the Publisher Licensing Society that makes it easy to request and obtain permissions. - a fast and efficient service from Copyright Clearance Centre to request and grant permissions. It is used by many academic publishers.