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When articles are accepted by open-access journals such as PLoS journals, the editors sometimes ask for a 'striking image' to attract attention to the paper on the contents page (see examples here; every paper has an accompanying image). When in this situation in the past we have used images which I or my institute own, but I know a couple of very good commercial photographers and can easily see situations where their images would be more suitable. What sort of license would I need to buy the photos under in order to have the authority to give the journal permission to publish them under a CC-BY-3.0 license?

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Buy the work under a contract that gives you exclusive license or copyright transfer under which you can sub-license or transfer to the journal publisher.

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