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Clearing 3rd party material for use in Oxford Journals articles

NB: The law governing copyright, especially as it refers to non-print media, is far from clear, but the following guidance is offered in good faith; of necessity, these guidelines are not comprehensive, but rather a simplification of the law governing copyright. Furthermore, these guidelines are based on English Law only. You should always seek advice when in doubt (contact details will be provided below).

What rights do you need to obtain?

When seeking permission to reproduce any kind of third party material in an Oxford Journal, please request the following:

  • Non-exclusive rights to reproduce the material in the specified article and journal
  • Print and electronic rights, preferably for use in any form or medium. If not possible to secure such broad-ranging rights, we do need the right to make the content available online (see below)
  • the right to use the material for the life of the work (no time-restrictions such as one year etc on the licence granted)
  • world-wide English-language rights. If rights for all languages can be secured, this is preferable
  • The right to use images with a resolution of 150 dpi in the PDF version of the journal or 72 dpi in the HTML version

Why are these rights needed?

Oxford Journals publishes its journals both in print and online, making them available through a variety of methods of access. By online, we mean the simultaneous publication of the tables of contents, abstracts (where applicable) as well as the full text of the journal in PDF and HTML formats on the Web. The journals are used by individuals and institutions in the format of their choice (for institutions only): print and online; print only or online only. We also sell individual articles to end users either in print or online format, and need to keep an article intact for this purpose. In order for Oxford Journals to maintain consistency in the high quality and content of its journals (regardless of the users preferred format and method of delivery), we need to ensure that we secure ALL of the rights specified above.

When should you clear permissions?

As you will see from the Copyright form supplied to you by the journal office, you are obliged to clear all necessary permissions prior to publication. We advise that you should begin doing so as early as possible. Copies of each permission should be provided to the Editorial office together with your signed Licence to Publish/Assignment of Copyright form.

What is covered by copyright?/Is it still in copyright?

Terms of copyright in literary, dramatic, artistic, and musical works (whether published or not) depend on (i) when and where the work was first published; (ii) if and when the author has died; and (iii) the residence and nationality of the author. The rules are complicated, but the general rule is:

  • Copyright expires 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the author died
  • If a work was unpublished (and this term has a broad meaning including public performance and broadcasting) at the date of the author’s death, then the period of copyright protection will be the longer of:

    a) 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the author died; or

    b) 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which the work was first published (in the case of works first published before August 1, 1989) and 50 years from January 1, 1990 (in the case of works first published after August 1, 1989).

In the case of an unpublished document, you will need to seek permission from the owner of the document as well as the owner of any copyright in the document.

Typography right (new editions of existing works)

A new copyright may exist in a new edition of an existing work (typography right). If the new edition contains material alterations which suffice to make the totality of the new edition an original work, then the new edition will be a new copyright work. This is so whether or not the existing edition is in the public domain, but that copying must be done from the existing work and not from the new edition. If the existing work is still protected by copyright, then permission for use must be obtained from the rights owner. If the new edition is used and the old edition is still in copyright, permission must be obtained from the owner of the rights in the new edition and, if that owner does not also own the rights in the old edition, from the person who owns the rights in the old edition. Copyright on typography lasts for 25 years from publication.

Should I request permission?

Make sure you do not apply for permission when you do not actually need it! There is one important circumstance under which permission is not required, and you should consider carefully whether it applies in your case.

Fair use - Where copyright is in force, it is legal to quote brief extracts from books, articles, or musical works for the purposes of review or criticism, provided that the source is acknowledged, and this provision is believed to extend to electronic as well as to print publication. For music journals, please note that in this context ‘musical works’ is believed to include both scores and recordings. However you must note the following:

  • ‘Brief’ is generally understood to mean no more than 5% of the work and, in any event, no more than is necessary for the criticism or review in question (note that individual items in collections, e.g. songs, count as works in their own right)
  • You cannot include the materials just for illustration; the legality of the quotation depends on the presence of critical commentary on it or its use for critical commentary on another work.

If you have any queries about the fair use provisions, please seek more advice. Contact details are provided below.

These fair use provisions do not, however, apply to illustrations or figures in books, since each illustration or figure is treated as a separate copyright item. You will need to obtain permission to reproduce them from the publishers, or where they are credited to third parties from those third parties.

Postcards, lyrics, cartoons: if the ‘fair use’ provisions cannot be accurately applied, then permission is required from the copyright holder to reproduce this kind of material. These are classed as literary works, and they are likely to have at least one level of copyright protection. In the case of lyrics and/or any other material that may be of a particularly high profile, even if you think ‘fair use’ may apply, it is best to seek permission as there is often a qualitative value attached to it.

Charts and tables - If a table is taken directly from another publication it will of course need permission. The same is true of a copy or redrawing which incorporates only minor modifications: if permission would have been needed for the original figure, then it will also be needed for a copied or modified version.

However if you make substantive changes to a chart or table, you may effectively be creating a new copyright and you would not need to clear permission, although we would still recommend alerting the original authors as a courtesy. Unfortunately, there is no legal definition of what constitutes substantive changes, so if you are in any doubt about whether or not you have created a new work, we strongly recommend that you should seek permission anyway.

In all cases, original sources should be fully credited.

Screenshots from a website - Under certain circumstances, screenshots from a website can be used under ‘fair use’ without seeking permission. As yet there are no fixed rules about this, but the majority of web sites will contain some form of copyright or proprietary rights notice. The following may help you determine whether or not permission is required:

  • in the text, refer to each image directly for criticism or review.
  • don’t use more images than you really need
  • avoid screenshots containing trademarks, pictures or text which may be themselves protected by copyright
  • check any legal notices on the website relating to the use of screenshots
  • don’t use screenshots comprising a large proportion of a single website
  • avoid placing screenshots from different sources alongside each other so as to criticise one of them

If you are not sure, check with the editorial office.

Film and television stills – For further information on the use of images from films and television including stills, film clips, posters etc: please click here for a copy of our additional guidance.

I need permission, so what do I do?

You need to write to the copyright holder or owner of the rights in the material you want to reproduce:

Material from books/journals: The best contact in the first instance, is the publisher. Even if the author retained the rights to the material, it is likely that the publisher will handle permissions centrally. If not, they will be able to refer you to the appropriate place.

Photographs: the copyright in all photographs taken after August 1, 1989 will be owned by the photographer, unless there is an agreement to the contrary. For photographs taken between June 1, 1957 and August 1, 1989, the 1956 Copyright Act defined the author as the person who owned the material on which the photograph was taken. The date of the photograph being taken is therefore essential. The length of the period of copyright for photographs is that outlined above.

Images/illustrations from museums, art galleries: Bear in mind that some images carry more than one level of copyright, and you will need permission from each of the relevant copyright owners.

An example of this would be a photograph of a work of art: if the original work is still protected by copyright, you will of course need permission from the artist or their representative/estate. It’s very likely that, in addition to this, you will also need to clear permission to reproduce the photograph, since this carries its own distinct copyright.

As a result, we come across many cases where permission is needed to reproduce a photograph even though the subject of the photograph is itself no longer protected by copyright.

Requesting Permission

When requesting permission to reproduce the material, it is essential that you include details of all the rights we need. We have included sample text below. You will need to state at the top of your request the name of the journal, title of your article, and details of the images or other material you wish to reproduce.

'[insert name of journal] which is published by Oxford Journals, a division of Oxford University Press [on behalf of X Society, a registered charity], is a scholarly journal with a limited print run. It is also published in an online version and maintained as an electronic archive after initial publication. Any material obtained under permission will be made available only within the context of the relevant article.

I am therefore seeking permission to reproduce the specified material in both the printed and the online versions of the journal, for distribution worldwide in all languages, for the life of the work. As a scholarly publication, I would ask you to consider reducing or waiving any fees in respect of this permission.

Full credit will be given to the original source. Unless you supply us with specific wording, we will follow our usual form of acknowledgement, as follows: ‘ Figure/table/illustration details. Reproduced/ [insert name of publication and full reference including year of first publication] with permission from [insert name of rights-holder]

Thank you for your help. I trust that you will be prepared to provide the necessary permissions without time limitation.'

Sometimes permission for ‘all languages’ is charged as an additional fee, and for certain journals it may not be necessary: if in doubt please check with the journal office.

To help you with the process, we have produced a Permission Request letter. If the letter is not provided alongside this document, a copy is available from the journal editorial office. Together with these guidelines and in particular, the wording provided above, we hope that the process of clearing these permissions will be straightforward.

For further details and a summary of the rights require when seeking permission to reproduce images in Oxford journals articles, please click here.

Best efforts: It is not enough to write off to the copyright owners and then assume that permission will be given in due course. By being the owner of the copyright, the rights-holder is able to prevent others from copying the work, so they are well within their rights to say no. Every effort should therefore be made to trace and then obtain the required rights from the copyright holder. By ‘best efforts’, we would normally expect that no more than three or four attempts be made to contact a rights-holder. If at this stage, there has been no success, please try and find an alternative piece of material to use. Should this not be possible, please inform the Editorial Office of the journal concerned about the problem you are experiencing, and a ‘case-by-case’ decision can be made about whether or not to proceed with inclusion of the material. Please note that when deciding to proceed with the inclusion of a copyrighted work without permission, there is always the possibility and associated risk that you may be infringing someone’s copyright. Oxford Journals is committed to ensuring that as much as possible of an author’s original choice of third party material (illustrations, images, figures, etc.) is included in their article. However, sometimes the only entirely safe course of action is not to use the material.

If you have difficulty tracing the rights holder

a)search on the Internet, if not already done. Can often provide a lot of useful information
b) contact one of the organizations listed below to see if they can help
c) talk to the Editorial office of the journal concerned. They may be able to help.

If you identify the rights holder but they are slow to respond -
Sometimes copyright holders may be slow to respond to permission requests. In those circumstances we would ask you to persist, perhaps trying an alternative email address or phone number from the institution's website, where available. Frequently, rights holders do grant permission once you get hold of the relevant person, although we do appreciate it can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating getting to that point.

It’s important to note that if we know (or believe we know) who holds the rights but they are slow to respond, this does not mean we can classify the material as an orphan work: that term is used for works which are still in copyright, but whose copyright owners cannot be found, even after diligent good faith search.

If you still cannot get them to respond -
a) consider the possibility of using an alternative piece of material
b) very occasionally an author reaches a complete impasse, and in those circumstances you should contact the journal office so that we can consider each case individually, especially if an image is fundamental to an article

No permission needed

Anonymous or pseudonymous works: for works made after August 1, 1989, copyright will not be infringed by any acts done at a time when:

  • it is not possible ‘by reasonable enquiry’ to identify the author; and
  • it is reasonable to assume copyright has expired or that the author died at least 70 calendar years ago.

Unfortunately, the picture is not so clear for works made pre-1989. If in doubt, advice should be sought from your publisher.

Out of copyright: the period of copyright, typographical right, etc. has expired. All that is required is a full acknowledgement to the original source.

Public domain: the advice from our Legal Department is that it is only really appropriate to consider a work as being in the public domain once the period of copyright has expired. However, for older works, it is important to ensure that there are no typographical rights that require clearance or acknowledgement.

In the case of US works, when authored by an employee of the US Government, it is standard practice for the copyright to reside with the Government and the works to be considered as being in the public domain. However, it is important not to assume that this is the case. Unless specifically informed otherwise, permission should still be sought to re-use the material.

Fair use: when the fair use provisions as outlined above can be applied.

When the copyright owner cannot be traced

In the text Publishing Law, Hugh Jones and Christopher Beeson emphasize that if the copyright owner cannot be traced then authors/publishers have to accept the risk that going ahead may well infringe someone’s copyright. As mentioned above, the decision to do this should be made following communication with the Editorial Office and/or Oxford Journals.

There are some useful organizations to contact if you are unable to trace the copyright owner:

WATCH (Writers, Artists and their Copyright Holders): This is a database containing primarily the names and addresses of copyright holders or contact persons for authors and artists whose archives are housed in libraries in North America or the UK.

British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies

Design and Artists Copyright Society

What to do if there are restrictions or unacceptable terms

You are granted permission, but there are restrictions or terms and conditions attached, such as a time limit or fee, which you do not want to accept:

a) go back and negotiate the terms/fee. Most rights holders are prepared to negotiate.
b) if the rights holder is unwilling or unable to grant online rights, we can accept print permission alone, but the material would have to be blanked out in the online version of the journal. This is not ideal either for the article or the journal as a whole, but we can do this if necessary. In this case it is essential that you let the journal editorial office and the production office know which permissions have/have not been cleared, as early as possible.
c) if you have been offered online rights for a limited period of time, go back and request permission for the life of the work. It can help to emphasise that the material will be used in a scholarly journal, and that it will only be used within the context of the relevant journal article. Some reassurance about how the images will be used might help them to accept unlimited use within the journal article, even if that is an exception to their usual terms. If you still cannot agree with the rights holder, we can blank the material out online, as in (b) above
d) permission granted using a rights holder’s own form, or by email or letter/fax is fine, and you are not obliged to use the template letter we have provided. However, the wording does need to cover the rights we need: in particular, permission to reproduce the material in both the print and electronic forms of the journal without a time limit.

Other sources of information

The Publishers Association Permission Guidelines: Click on ‘PA Permissions Guidelines March 2008’ to download the PDF of this useful document.

Joint permission Guidelinesfrom the PA and the British Academy:
This useful document was also produced in 2008.

STM Permission Guidelines:
From 1 January 2009 both the Academic and Journals Division of Oxford University Press will be signatories to the STM Permission Guidelines introduced by the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers.

Any other queries:

a) In the first instance, talk to the Editorial office of the journal concerned. The journal office will also be able to put you in touch with Oxford Journals’ permissions adviser, if necessary
b) Alternatively, contact the Oxford Journals Commissioning Editor or Production Editor for the journal concerned
c) Or, contact the Rights and New Business Development Department at Oxford Journals with details of your queries.

Any other queries

a) In the first instance, talk to the Editorial office of the journal concerned. The journal office will also be able to put you in touch with Oxford Journals’ permissions consultant, if necessary.
b) Alternatively, contact your Publisher or Production Editor at Oxford Journals
c) You could also contact the Business Development and Rights department at Oxford Journals with details of your query by clicking here.