Permission seeking guidelines for Elsevier authors

When is permission required?
When is permission not required?
From whom do I need permission?
How do I obtain permission to use photographs or illustrations?
Do I need to obtain permission to use material posted on a website?
What rights does Elsevier require when requesting permission?
How do I obtain permission from another publisher?
What is Rightslink®?
What should I do if I am not able to locate the copyright owner?
What is Elsevier’s policy on using patient photographs?
Can I obtain permission from a Reproduction Rights Organization (RRO)?
Is Elsevier an STM signatory publisher?
Do I need to request permission to re-use work from another STM publisher?
Contact us

When is permission required?

As a general rule, permission should be sought from the rights holder to reproduce any substantial part of a copyrighted work. This includes any text, illustrations, charts, tables, photographs, or other material from previously published sources used without significant adaptation. Whether or not the material that is being reproduced is a “substantial part” is a subjective test that depends on both the significance of the material and the quantity of material used. Please note as well that sources of all data must be credited, whether or not permission is required. For further guidance, please contact the Permissions Helpdesk.

When is permission not required?

From whom do I need permission?

Permission must be sought from the copyright owner and/or rightsholder. In most cases this will mean contacting the publisher of the original work. The publisher usually has the exclusive right to grant the permission whether or not copyright is owned by the publisher.

If the rightsholder requires that the credit line be in a specific format, this must be followed exactly, e.g.:

Print the required copyright credit line on the first page on which the material appears: “Reprinted from Wear, Vol. 139, W.S. Moon and Y. Kimura, Wear-preventing property of used gasoline oils, pp. 351-365. Copyright 1990, with permission from Elsevier.” Such notice must be visible any time a user accesses any part of the material and must appear on any printed copies an authorized user might make.

How do I obtain permission to use photographs or illustrations?

The publisher will not always own reproduction rights to photographs or illustrations; rather, such rights may have been retained by the illustrator or photographer. If the source from which the material is borrowed does not indicate who owns reproduction rights, the publisher’s response to a request for permission will often indicate who does.

Photographs or illustrations of fine art objects (sculpture, painting, decorative art, antiquities, etc.) may be subject to copyright and permission may need to be obtained from the holder of the reproduction rights in the photograph (usually the photographer, the publisher, or the museum which owns the object). 

Do I need to obtain permission to use material posted on a website?

Probably. Most material on the Internet is protected by copyright whether or not a copyright notice is displayed. Some material posted on websites may not be original to the website itself and permission will therefore need to be requested from the copyright owner or rightsholder of the original source. If the material is original to the website, permission should be obtained directly from the website which will own copyright to the content on their site. 

What rights does Elsevier require when requesting permission?

When requesting permission for use of material in an Elsevier product, you should request that the rightsholder grant to Elsevier the following rights: this and all subsequent editions, revisions, versions, derivative works, translations, ancillaries, adaptations, supplementary materials, and custom editions; all languages; all formats and media now known or hereafter developed; worldwide distribution in perpetuity. We often cannot include material where these rights have been restricted. In such cases you will need to obtain alternate material. 

Please use original, unpublished figures, tables, and other content, or at minimum content that is original to Elsevier or its imprints, whenever possible.

Elsevier imprints include:

Academic Press
Baillière Tindall
Butterworth-Heinemann (US)
Cell Press
Chandos Publishing
Churchill Livingstone
CPM Resource Center
Digital Press
Elsevier BV/Inc/Ltd
Elsevier Current Trends
Grune & Stratton
Gulf Professional Publishing
Gulf Publishing Company
Hanley & Belfus
Medicine Publishing
Morgan Kaufmann
Pergamon Press
Urban & Fischer Verlag
William Andrew
Woodhead Publishing

How do I obtain permission from another publisher?

Normally permission to reproduce material from another publisher in an Elsevier product is best obtained via Rightslink®. Where Rightslink® is not available, we provide a permission request form template: Permission Request Form.

For further instructions on how to complete the permission request form, please refer to this example.

What is Rightslink®?

Rightslink® is the Copyright Clearance Center’s automated permissions granting service, which is used by Elsevier along with many other STM publishers such as Wiley Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, and Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. With Rightslink®, customers can request permission 24/7 for select content from the point of access, in most cases the individual journal article or book chapter on the rightsholder’s website (normally ScienceDirect in the case of Elsevier, also Health Advance for Elsevier journals). For more information about Rightslink®, please visit Obtaining Permission to Re-Use Elsevier Material.

What should I do if I am not able to locate the copyright owner?

Where rights have reverted to an author or transferred to another publisher, it may be difficult to locate the correct copyright owner or rightsholder. However, you must make every effort to do so. You should keep records of all correspondence as proof of your attempts to obtain permission. It can never be assumed that a non-response authorizes you to use the material.

Works for which a prospective user is unable to identify, locate, and contact the copyright owner to obtain permission are known as “orphan works.” A number of publishers including Elsevier have signed Safe Harbor provisions (agreed between STM, the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, and the Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers) notifying prospective users that, to the extent that those publishers own orphan works, users who comply with the guidelines in those provisions will be entitled to certain “safe harbor” protections. Core requirements include:

Note: use of a disclaimer alone is not sufficient. 

STM also maintains a list of STM publisher imprints you can use to help determine who the publisher of a particular imprint is. To try to locate an author’s contact details, you can also contact organizations such as The Society of AuthorsWATCH, the Authors’ Registry, and the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society who may be able to provide assistance; search the Copyright Clearance Center’s Rights Licensing Database; or contact the Permissions Helpdesk with any questions.

What is Elsevier’s policy on using patient photographs?

Appropriate consents, permissions and releases must be obtained where we wish to include case details or other personal information or images of patients or any other individuals in an Elsevier publication. Written consents must be retained by the author and copies of the consents or evidence that such consents have been obtained must be provided to Elsevier upon request.

Particular care should be taken where children are concerned (in particular where a child has special needs or learning disabilities), where an individual’s head or face appears, or where reference is made to an individual’s name or other personal details. 

For more information please review Elsevier's policy on the use of images or personal information of patients or other individuals

Can I obtain permission from a Reproduction Rights Organization (RRO)?

An RRO is a national organization licensed to handle certain types of permissions on behalf of publishers or other rights owners. RROs can provide you with permission in the form of a license to make copies of material in several formats such as printing, photocopying, scanning, digital copying, and electronic storage.
For further information

If you want to make multiple photocopies of articles or chapters please contact the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) or the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) for a license subscription. Rightslink® can also provide a license on an individual basis.

Is Elsevier an STM signatory publisher?

Yes, Elsevier is a signatory to the STM (International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers) Permissions Guidelines, last updated February 2012. The Guidelines encourage the granting of permission by one STM signatory publisher to another to re-use limited amounts of material from published works in subsequent publications. 

Permission will be granted by one signatory publisher to another free of charge for use of:

Permission automatically includes re-use for electronic versions of the work as well as for subsequent editions and translations, except as outlined on the STM website. When granting permissions, STM publishers will not request a complimentary copy of the new work except in limited circumstances. For further information please visit the STM website or query the Permissions Helpdesk.

Do I need to request permission to re-use work from another STM publisher?

STM gave publishers the option of opting out of receiving formal permission requests provided the re-use fell within the above parameters. Elsevier is one of the publishers who agreed to opt out (with exceptions for particular material). The following publishers also agreed to opt out of requiring formal permission for such re-use:

American Psychological Association
Ammons Scientific Ltd.
Borm Bruckmeier Publishing
ChemTec Publishing
CSIRO Publishing
Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.
John Benjamins Publishing Company
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (journals only)
Morgan & Claypool Life Sciences
Nature Publishing Group

Portland Press
SAGE Publications

Science Reviews 2000 Ltd.
Scrub Hill Press Inc.

Taylor & Francis (journals only)
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (The IET)
World Health Organization

updated July 2014

This means that if you will be re-using material that falls within the parameters outlined above (e.g. no more than five figures from a whole book), you do not need to request formal permission.

Please however remember the following:

Contact us

Questions about obtaining permission? Contact the Permissions Helpdesk at or (+1) 800-523-4069 x 3808.