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What are permissions?

What holders and users of copyright need to know

When individuals or organisations want to reuse published material, they must ensure they are respecting the rules of copyright. Collective licensing or contracts may provide the necessary consent—but if they do not, permission must be expressly obtained from the rights holder. This is particularly relevant when someone wishes to reuse only a small amount of content, like using a quotation from a book in another book, or reproducing a poem or image. Permissions are important because they:

  • Safeguard the interests of those who create and publish content
  • Encourage the reuse of published material on agreed terms
  • Provide an additional revenue stream for rights holders
  • Support the UK’s copyright framework.

Permissions for users

People or organisations seeking to reuse extracts of content must first identify the holder of its rights, then approach them with a clear and detailed indication of what content they wish to use, and where and when they intend to use it. The rights holder can then decide whether or not to grant permission and, if it does so, the terms for reuse. These will include the acknowledgement that is required. Depending on the content and purpose, a fee may also apply.

Finding rights holders is not always straightforward. Books or digital content should identify their publisher, who may have webpages or specific contacts that act as starting points for permissions requests, or use a third party provider. If a contact can’t be found, requestors can start by contacting the publisher’s office. Rights to the content may have been acquired by another publisher, who must then be contacted for permission.

The length of the permissions process can vary, and depends on the content that is sought, its intended use and the follow-up work that is needed. Permissions can’t always be granted quickly—but content protected by copyright should never be used until consent is expressly provided.

PLS can make securing permissions much easier and faster. Read more about how we help here.

Permissions for rights holders

The permissions process helps the holders of copyright material ensure that it is being used as they wish. When a request is submitted, the rights holder can decide whether to grant it, decline it or request more information.

There will be good reasons for each of these three decisions. Granting permission may help to promote the source material and encourage interest in its subject. It may also command a fee. However, rights holders are entitled to decline requests—perhaps if they think reuse is excessive, or compromises interest in the original content. They are also free to request more details about how their extracts are to be used.

Processing permissions can be a laborious task. Larger publishers may have resources to handle requests, but many do not, and any fees that might be generated may not justify the time involved.

PLS offers a range of services to help rights holders process and grant permissions quickly and easily. Read more about how we help here.