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Copyright and Permissions


Copyright and Permissions FAQs

All materials published by Sage Publishing are subject to applicable copyright laws. The following FAQs focus on the copyright laws of the United States and United Kingdom, where Sage’s primary publishing offices are located. In submitting a manuscript to a SAGE journal, an author represents that all included materials are the author’s own work unless clearly otherwise identified. To avoid any potential issues with plagiarism (i.e., representing someone else’s work or ideas as one’s own) or copyright infringement (i.e., violating the exclusive copyright rights of another) or any other violation of the rights of other parties (including, but not limited to, personal rights, an expectation of privacy, or other confidentiality requirement), authors should clearly identify any third-party materials and their respective rights holders in their submissions.  The author shall additionally ensure that any needed permissions are secured and provided to the journal with their accepted article. While authors are responsible for obtaining all permissions and other releases for third-party materials, SAGE is happy to provide guidance on copyright permissions and other rights releases. If you don’t see your question addressed below, you can contact the journal’s editor or production editor for additional clarification.


What if I want to re–use material from another source in my article?

If your Contribution includes third-party material for which you do not have copyright, you are responsible for clearing all needed permissions for such material and identifying the source within your article. You may be able to use the material without permission if your use meets the requirements of fair use (US), fair dealing (UK), the STM Permissions Guidelines, or certain types of licenses, as further described on this webpage. If none of these apply, you will be responsible for submitting written permission agreements from the copyright owner of the material and paying any related permission fees. In most cases, the publisher of the original work is the best contact for securing permission.

If your Contribution does not qualify for the exceptions mentioned above, you will need to clear permission for all third-party material you intend to include within your article. Direct text extracts, tables, or illustrations that have appeared in copyrighted material must be accompanied by written permission for their use from the copyright owner along with complete information as to the source.

In addition to securing permission for photographs that portray identifiable persons, these photos should also be accompanied by signed releases from these people providing their informed consent for the publication of their photo. This is particularly important for children and essential if photographs feature situations where privacy would be expected. 

Articles appear in both the print and online versions of the journal and may be translated or archived, and accordingly, the terms of the permission agreement used for third party materials must include all formats and media for the full duration of copyright. Failure to clear electronic permission rights—or any required releases—will result in images and other materials being excluded from your article.

If you are unsure whether you need to clear permission, please contact your production editor.


What are the ‘STM Permissions Guidelines’ and how can I use them?

Sage is a signatory of the STM Permissions Guidelines. Despite their name, the STM Permissions Guidelines are not limited to the use of scientific, technical, and medical content. Instead, all publications—unless specifically excluded—by the publishers who are signatories to the guidelines are eligible for use under the terms. The STM Permissions Guidelines webpage includes the list of signatory publishers, excluded works, whether the publisher has opted out of receiving notice, and a description of the allowed use under the guidelines.

The guidelines allow signatory publishers (and their authors) to use small amounts of other signatory publishers’ materials without payment of a fee. In some cases—where the publisher has ‘opted out’ of receiving notice—there is no need to request permission. Where the signatory has not opted out, the author should simply cite the guidelines when requesting the material from the publisher. If requesting permission online through an online portal, ‘STM Publisher’ may be an option for ‘user type’ when identifying the journal in which your article will be published. Reuse under the STM Permissions Guidelines will not incur a fee.


What is ‘fair dealing’, and what does it cover?

The UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 provides that copyright will not be infringed by ‘fair dealing’ but it does not define what ‘fair dealing’ itself means. It has come to be interpreted as referring to the way material is used, as well as the intention of the person using it. However, use of third-party material must qualify as fair dealing for a particular purpose. There are a number of these purposes specified in UK law but the most relevant one for us is ‘Fair Dealing for Criticism or Review’.

What constitutes ‘fair dealing for Criticism or Review’?

The use of third-party material must be ‘Fair’. That means: not systematic and not conflicting with the rights of the copyright holder or affecting their ability to benefit from the work.

  • There is no set amount of material allowed or forbidden. However, the use cannot be systematic or excessive. Do not rely on word counts.
  • You must always make proper acknowledgment to the original copyright work.

Criticism or review:

  • The third-party material used must be discussed in the context of criticism or review. This is an essential component providing a justification for fair dealing.
  • Only work that has been previously published or otherwise made available to the public may be used.
  • There is no legal definition of criticism or review but it’s likely that there would be a fairly liberal interpretation by the Courts.
  • Mere illustration or ‘window dressing’ is ruled out. A good question to ask is whether your work would stand up if the material was deleted. If so, it is unlikely to be for criticism and review.
  • Permission is always required if you wish to modify or make changes to the third-party material because all authors have moral rights under European law.

If you are in any doubt as to whether or not you can use the material as ‘fair dealing’, you should clear permission, or leave the material out.

Please note that this is Sage’s working view of a relatively untested area of the law.


What is ‘fair use’, and what does it cover?

Fair use is codified as Section 107 of the US Copyright Act and provides an exception to the exclusive rights of the copyright holder under certain limited circumstances.  Fair use involves a four-factor analysis that includes considering:

  1. the purpose and nature of the use,
  2. the nature of the original material,
  3. the amount of the original material being used in relation to the original work as a whole, and
  4. the effect the use will have on the market of the original work.

Text, photographs, illustrations, and figures are all subject to fair use, but generally the more creative the original work (the nature of the original work), the weaker the basis for a fair use argument. Where the later use is transformative—that is, where the purpose of the use is different from the purpose of the original creation—the fair use argument will be stronger. Only the minimal portion of the original work that is sufficient for the use should be used (e.g., where a 200-word excerpt is adequate for the use, no more than 200 words should be reproduced; photographs should be reproduced in the minimum size that will achieve the purpose). Reproduction of an excerpt for the purpose of commentary, criticism, and discussion may be the basis for a fair use argument, subject to the overall determination under the four-factor analysis.

If you are in any doubt as to whether or not you can use the material as ‘fair use’, you should clear permission, or leave the material out.


How may I use materials published under a Creative Commons license?

If you are interested in reusing material published under a Creative Commons (CC) license, you should first determine the type of Creative Commons license that applies to the material. The Creative Commons licenses cover several rights arrangements where an article or other content is published with certain rights extended to the general public. The name of the Creative Commons license provides a quick reference of the restrictions that apply to reuse of the content.  For example, the CC BY (also known as the Creative Commons Attribution license) only requires users to include attribution to the original work and its author. There are no other restrictions on the work. The Creative Commons Non-Commercial License (CC BY-NC) includes the additional restriction that any later use of the content must be for noncommercial purposes only. You can read more about the Creative Commons licenses and the use allowed under each license type here:

For more information on open access at Sage please visit the open access pages.


How can I tell whether content is available under public domain?

Public domain refers to content that otherwise meets the eligibility for being copyrightable, but where no legal copyright exists. This can occur in the following scenarios: (1) the copyright has expired, or (2) the work was created by an employee(s) of the US Federal Government as part of the employee’s official duties, or (3) as a more recent and less common development, the author of the work has disclaimed all copyright rights in their work and has purposely placed the work in the public domain.

  • The copyright has expired. To determine whether a work is in the public domain under this scenario:
    • for US-published works a good first step is to review the publication date of the work to determine the length of copyright at the time the work was published. Works published in the US before 1923 are in the public domain (because the works had already passed into the public domain when the 1976 Copyright Act went into effect).  The duration of copyright has changed since the 1976 Act went into effect and currently is 70 years after December 31 of the year the author dies (many works will have a copyright term well over 100 years). The copyright term for work-made-for-hire works is 95 years. A useful reference for reviewing whether a work is still under copyright is the Public Domain Sherpa copyright calculator (not affiliated in any way with Sage), located at
    • for UK-published works, copyright generally lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years (counted from the end of the calendar year in which the creator dies). Upon expiration of copyright, the work enters the public domain and may be used by anyone. Films and sound recordings may have varying durations of copyright depending on when or if they were published and the number of people involved.
  • The work was created by an employee(s) of the US Federal Government as part of the employee’s official duties. To determine whether a work is in the public domain under this scenario:
    • confirm the copyright status of each of the individual authors. If all authors of a work are US Government employees (who completed their Contributions as part of their employment), then the content of the work is in the public domain. If any one author is not a US Government employee, then the work as a whole will not be considered public domain.
  • The work was purposely placed by its author(s) in the public domain.  This is a rare situation and will only be relevant where the author has included a statement in the work stating the author has relinquished any copyright rights.  If you will be using any materials under this scenario, please ensure the materials are clearly attributed to the author and a reference to the author’s statement relinquishing copyright is included.  

Please be aware that a particular version of a public domain article may have copyright protection based on the formatting or other creative selection and arrangement of the text that was completed by the journal (or other publication) in which the public domain content was published.  In this case, the work’s content may be used as public domain material, but a particular formatted version should not simply be photocopied or further distributed. For example, digital images of 2D public domain works (generally digital images of paintings) may be protected by copyright in the UK. In addition, new versions or adaptations of a public domain work may have their own copyright. Examples of copyright-protected derivative works based on public domain materials include a new recording of a work by Mozart or a film version of a Shakespeare play.


Is there any specific wording I should use in my letter requesting permission?

In order to be able to publish your work in the print and online versions of your article we require permission to be granted for worldwide rights to reproduce in all media in all formats. You may use the template permission letter to request permission.


When do I need to use an audio-visual likeness release form?

Separate from copyright, a personal rights release that provides permission to publish someone’s visual or audio likeness should be secured for the publication of photographs, videos, or audio recordings that depict the individual’s traits. There are several personal and privacy rights (which are governed under state law, in the US, the General Data Protection Regulation in the UK and other European countries, and other national privacy laws) but the main rights that come into question with photos and video clips provided for journal articles are (1) expectation of privacy, where the subject is recognizable (either because their face is showing or another distinctive feature, such as a highly unique tattoo) and the subject has an expectation of privacy when the photograph of them was taken, (2) right of endorsement (approval of any use of someone’s likeness to endorse or promote a commercial product), and (3) false light, which refers to a prohibition under several state laws in the US. False light occurs when a photo is used in a manner that wrongfully suggests something about the subject of the photo and could be part of a defamation claim. 

If you want to use a photo depicting individuals in your article, you should ensure you have permission from the individuals depicted in the photo, unless an exception applies. Be aware that photos of children under 18 and all medical/health information are particularly sensitive and should always be cleared with a written release.


Is there an audio-visual release form I may use?

If an individual is identifiable in any audio and/or visual material included in your Contribution, you may use Sage’s template release form to request permission.


May I post my article online or otherwise distribute it without permission from Sage?

Yes, please visit our Guidelines for Sage Authors to review how, as an author, you may share your Contribution.


How can I contact the Rights & Permissions department at Sage?

Please visit Journals Permissions.


How may I reuse my article?

Please visit our Guidelines for Sage Authors.


How can others reuse my article?

Requests by third parties to reprint or reproduce a Contribution—or part of it—in any format, are handled efficiently by Sage, on behalf of the journal proprietor, in accordance with our general policy. For more information, please visit Journals Permissions.