Handy tips: when is permission needed?

Below are some useful tips for when permission is required.


Authors need permission to reuse any content that is not original, e.g.

  • Other people’s figures, text, tables
  • Their own, previously published work.


Permission needs to be given by the copyright owner if it is:

  • From a journal, book or ebook = probably the publisher (sometimes the author too)
  • From their thesis = probably the author
  • For conference papers = usually either the conference organizer or the conference proceedings publisher
  • From the internet = usually the website owner (except for Wikipedia/Wikimedia or other sites which have user generated content, in which case the owner of the content is likely to be the original creator)
  • Unpublished = usually the creator of the content.


You must ensure that all necessary permissions have been obtained for reuse of any content in an article/ebook you wish to publish with IOP Publishing.

Despite common misconceptions, permission is usually required in the following circumstances:

Copyright lasts until 70 years after the author’s death (or the last remaining co-author if more than one person created the content). Therefore, content is protected by copyright for a substantial amount of time. Permission is required if the content is protected by copyright.

Free to view is NOT the same as free to reuse.

Somebody created it, so it will be protected by copyright (unless it was made available on an open access basis under a licence allowing commercial reuse).

Copyright protects against copying.

Unless it is so different it is unrecognizable, you need permission (this applies even if you have adapted the figure).

If it has already been published in a previous paper by a different publisher, that publisher probably owns the copyright and so you need permission (unless that publisher’s author rights policy allows authors to reuse their own content).

Copyright protects against copying.

Copyright and plagiarism are different things, you need permission even if you have properly referenced the reused content.

Copyright exists automatically and immediately. Therefore, even if the particular figure/content has not been published before, permission is required if you did not create it.

The © sign is just a way of showing who the copyright belongs to. Copyright exists automatically. Therefore, there does not need to be a © sign for the content to be protected by copyright. Permission will be required.

There are lots of different types of open access licences. You will need permission unless the licence under which the content was made available allows commercial reuse. Refer to this useful table.

Reuse of graphical/pictorial representation of data, e.g. a graph/table, does need permission (as someone has put effort into creating it).

However, reuse of raw data does not generally need permission, provided you have plotted it into a different graph/table. You should however cite the source of the data.

The US concept of fair use (which allows certain uses of content without permission) does not apply to IOP Publishing as we have to comply with UK copyright legislation.