My basic question is, should I get copyright permission for a figure before submitting a paper?

However I realize there may be two different situations, and I'm not sure if they are different.

  1. Should I get permission from original authors/journals before sending a paper for review or;
  2. should I wait to get accepted and then ask for permission.

It seems to me that I should not waste peoples time for permission without being accepted first, but maybe the paper is stronger with figures. For example, an image of a machine that the paper points out aesthetic features.

On the other hand, it seems to me bad to submit a manuscript or paper and after submission finding out there is no permission to use the figure or image, and taking it out of the paper after being accepted.

  • When I review a paper, if I see that a figure has come from another paper, I expect the author to have already sorted out the copyright/attribution issue and to have expressed this in their paper. Although I don't consider this by itself a reason for outright rejection, it definitely will be sent back for "major revisions" if a figure is not properly attributed. But since one data point doesn't make a trend, I won't post an answer :-)
    – darthbith
    Apr 10, 2014 at 23:13
  • Try the question from the other end. Someone wants to use one or more of your figures for their work. When should they get your permission? (You may not care, but ettiquete suggests assuming the figure creator does care, and so I think the proper answer is before submission. At least, ask them before submitting, and let the editor know the present status of that request.) Apr 11, 2014 at 16:22
  • Leaving aside for a moment the question of "etiquette", it might very well be a legal requirement from both the journal where the work was originally published and the one you are submitting your work to that you adquire this permission to reproduce others' (or even your own) work.
    – Miguel
    May 17, 2014 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


It is good to ask permission from the publisher before submitting, even if the figure is from your own paper that was published in the past.

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