Published 30 September 2020

Third-party permissions

Third-party material may be included in open access books. Authors must secure permission from the rights holder and should state clearly in each caption what licensing terms apply to the material, as these may differ from the open access licence under which the rest of the book is released.

Third-party material (TPM), such as illustrations, charts and figures taken from existing sources, can be included in open access books, but there are some additional factors to consider.

Securing permissions

Permission must be secured from rights holders to include third-party material in open access books. When requesting permission, you should notify the rights holder that the book will be published open access and inform them of the open access licence under which the book will be released. It can be more difficult to secure permission to include third-party material in open access books, as rights holders may be concerned that their commercial interests will be harmed by their work being made so widely accessible.

If the rights holder has already released the material you want to use under a Creative Commons (CC) licence, or if the work is in the public domain, you may not need to request permission to re-use it, but you must ensure you abide by the terms of the licence. All CC licences require that the author is credited.


Third-party material can be shared under a different licence from the rest of an open access book. For example, a book released under a Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY) could include figures that are released under a more restrictive Creative Commons licence such as Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (CC BY-NC-ND), or that are ‘all rights reserved’ (that is, no sharing is permitted).

While it is preferable for third-party material to be shared under the same licence as the rest of the book to support the widest possible sharing and re-use, if the rights holder will not permit this, they may agree to their material being included under a more restrictive licence.

Crediting third-party material

It is important when including third-party material in an open access book to indicate in each caption/credit both the copyright holder and the terms under which the material is shared (CC Wiki, 2013).

For third-party material that has been released under a CC licence: [NAME OF IMAGE], © [RIGHTSHOLDER (YEAR)], used under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence,

For third-party material that is all rights reserved: [NAME OF IMAGE], © [RIGHTSHOLDER (YEAR)], all rights reserved. Permission for re-use should be sought from the rights-holder.

As with all third-party material, if the rights holder requests a specific form of wording in the caption, this should be used. Your publisher may also advise a particular reference style.

Publisher policies

Be aware that publishers’ approaches to third-party material in open access books may vary:

  • Some publishers may only allow inclusion of third-party material if the rights holder is willing to let it be released under the same CC licence as the rest of the book, whereas others will permit the third-party material to be included under more restrictive licensing terms.
  • Sometimes rights-holders will permit inclusion of their material in the print book but not in the open access ebook. In this case, some publishers may choose to show the third-party material only in the print book while providing a blank square in the ebook (this is sometimes referred to as ‘tombstoning’); other publishers may insist that the print book and ebook are identical and will not permit inclusion of third-party material unless permissions are secured for all formats.

Publishers’ involvement in helping to secure third-party permissions for open access books may vary. Some publishers may handle permissions on your behalf; in other cases, you may be contractually obliged to secure third-party permissions yourself. In this instance, your publisher may provide advice and check that the permissions and captions are correct.

Last edited on 30 September 2020, at 06:38 (+0000)