Copyright and Permissions

Download the complete Author Guide

Getting Started
Requesting Permission
Owner Not Found

Getting Started

When using any photos, maps, charts, illustrations and texts, always check if they are subject to copyright. Brill can only publish your book if you have secured the permission to use them: this is the author’s responsibility.

Given that securing these permissions is often a time-consuming process, it is essential that you determine at an early stage whether you are including any material that you need to request permission for. Ask yourself, too, whether the material that you plan on including is worth the process of seeking permissions.


1. Who Owns the Copyright?

The first step is to establish who owns the copyright.


Photos, figures, maps, drawings, cartoons and other illustrations are protected by the same copyright that is applicable to texts, i.e. the author has the exclusive right to publish his/her work until 70 years after his death. Find out, therefore, who the author is: this can be the photographer, the artist, the cartographer. If your source is e.g. a database or another publication, it is likely that the copyright has been transferred to a publisher or an agency, in which case you need to turn to them to request permission.


While there is no copyright on illustrations older than 70 years, these usually belong to a museum or an archive, which will likely have a procedure in place for requesting permissions. Please note that a museum might also charge you for using a picture (of an artwork) that you have taken yourself.


Using photos of people can be tricky. Portrait rights exist in most countries; it is best to obtain permission in advance when you plan to use a picture that depicts people. The exception is a picture depicting a large group of people in a public place, e.g. a football stadium.

Pictures of celebrities are notoriously difficult (they can be worth a lot of money) and unless you have obtained clear permission to use them, it is best to steer clear of them altogether.

Film Stills

Frame captures, also called film stills, are generally considered to fall in the realm of fair use for scholarly publishing. Essentially, a frame capture represents 1/24 of one second of a film, which hardly represents the whole heart of the work, and cannot be  said to infringe upon the market for the film. FIlm stills should not be confused with Production or Publicity Skills, which are photographs taken on a film´s set, and which may be subject to copyright protection.


Please be aware of the existence of trademarks, e.g. of multinationals.

2. Exceptions

In some cases, copyrighted work can be used without obtaining the permission from the copyright owner: the most important example of this is quotation. Illustrations can be quoted, just like texts . Quotation of the illustration must be functional and relevant and should include a discussion of the illustration itself. If you think your use of the illustration falls under quotation and you do not need to request permission, do always get in touch with your Brill contact.

3. Moral rights

The main moral right of the author is the right always to have his work attributed to him.

Another moral right is that you are not allowed to change a work without the author’s permission.

  • Always include a credit line to acknowledge the artist or photographer.
  • Do you plan on changing the illustration, e.g. crop or cut it for a cover design? Please note that you may need the artist’s permission to do so, even if they have transferred their copyright to an agency or publisher. Permission to use an illustration on the cover usually needs to be obtained separately.


1. Quotation

The rules regarding quotation are not always clear and differ from one country to another. Please bear in mind that you should probably request permission when:

  • You are quoting a text ‘extensively’, which is generally taken to mean more than 100 words, or a certain percentage of the original text. The Copyright Clearance Center is a good place to start and often faster than seeking permission from the publisher;
  • You are quoting a song, poem, newspaper article or unpublished source.

2. Previously Published Material

Sometimes, a project entails the use of previously published material: e.g., a collection of previously published articles. It is vital that you determine at the earliest stage possible whether you need to request permission.

Getting Started: Copyright, Yes or No?

Generally, copyright on any text expires 70 years after the author’s date of decease. When in doubt, please get in touch with your Brill contact. Please note that a text, like a painting or a picture, may be part of a museum collection or archive that will require permission to publish.

When You Are the Author

While you, as the author, retain the moral rights,in most cases, you will have assigned the copyright to the publisher before your article is published. If you plan on using this article again, you will need to ask permission from the publisher to use it, even if you intend to revise it. Most publishers are lenient towards authors and allow them to use their own work again without additional cost, but bear in mind that this may not always be the case.

When You Are Using Articles by Other Authors

Compiling a collection of previously published articles may be a worthwhile enterprise but please bear in mind that it will be costly to obtain permissions for all the articles.

  • The Copyright Clearance Center is a good place to start and will save you the trouble of contacting various publishers.
  • Just asking permission from the authors will not do!

3. Translations

Most publishers ask authors to assign copyright for publication of the work in all languages. This means that when you plan to start a translation project, either of your own work or that of someone else, you will first need to request permission from the publisher who published the work in its original language (unless it is in the public domain).

There are exceptions: always check the contract carefully and liaise with your Brill contact.

Requesting Permission

When requesting permission for either texts or illustrations, please take into account the following:

  • Make sure to obtain the rights for worldwide distribution, in all languages.
  • Make sure to obtain the rights for both print and electronic publication.
  • Make sure to mention that we are a scholarly publisher and the print run is max. 500 copies.

Most museums, publishers, archives and agencies will have a standard procedure and form in place for requesting permissions. If this is not the case, please use our standard Permission Request form.

  • Please note that Brill usually needs to receive a scanned copy or hardcopy of the permissions before we can proceed to production and publication. Please check with your Brill contact.

Owner Not Found

Sometimes, the owner is impossible to trace or the publisher seems to have vanished. Please get in touch with your Brill contact if you can prove that you have done all you could to find the owner but have not been successful so that you can discuss how to proceed.