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Licenses and Copyright

The following policy applies to all PLOS journals, unless otherwise noted.

Reuse of PLOS Article Content

PLOS applies the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY) license, or other comparable licenses that allow free and unrestricted use, to articles and other works we publish. If you submit your paper for publication by PLOS, you agree to have the CC BY license applied to your work. If your institution or funder requires your work or materials to be published under a different license or dedicated to the public domain - for example Creative Commons 1.0 Universal (CC0) or Open Governmental License - this is permitted for those licenses where the terms are equivalent to or more permissive than CC BY. PLOS requires that you as the author agree that anyone can reuse your article content in whole or part for any purpose, for free, even for commercial purposes. These permitted uses include but are not limited to self-archiving by authors of submitted, accepted and published versions of their papers in institutional repositories. Anyone may copy, redistribute, reuse, or modify the content as long as the author and original source are properly cited. This facilitates freedom in reuse and also ensures that PLOS content can be mined without barriers for the needs of research.

Content Owned by Someone Else

If your manuscript contains content such as photos, images, clipart, tables, audio files, videos, proprietary protocols, code, etc., that you or your co-authors do not own or did not create, we will require you to provide us with proof that either:

  1. the material is in the public domain or available under an open access license compatible with CC BY 4.0, or
  2.  the owner of that content has given you written permission to use and publish the content under an open access CC BY 4.0 license. 

Please note that purchasing copyright use is unlikely to meet this requirement, as many journals and publishers restrict the terms of purchased copyright use in ways that do not accommodate open access publication. In addition, we cannot accept Creative Commons licensed materials with additional non-commercial (CC BY-NC), share-alike (CC BY-SA), or non-derivative (CC BY-ND) clauses.

This Content Copyright Permission form can be used to request permissions from the relevant copyright holder, office, or representative. Authors should fill out the first page of the form with details on the material they wish to reuse and ask the copyright holder to complete and sign the second page of the form. 

If you do not have owner permission, we will ask you to remove the content and/or replace it with other content that you own or have such permission to use.

Don't assume that you can use any content you find on the Internet, or that the content is fair game just because it isn't clear who the owner is or what license applies. It's up to you to ascertain what rights you have—if any—to use that content.

Under no circumstances should your manuscript contain third party trade secret information. 

Using Article Content Previously Published in Another Journal

Many authors assume that if they previously published a paper through another publisher, they own the rights to that content and they can freely use that content in their PLOS paper, but that’s not necessarily the case – it depends on the license that covers the other paper. Some publishers allow free and unrestricted re-use of article content they own, such as under the CC BY license. Other publishers use licenses that allow re-use only if the same license is applied by the person or publisher re-using the content.

If the paper was published under a CC BY license or another license that allows free and unrestricted use, you may use the content in your PLOS paper provided that you give proper attribution, as explained above.

If the content was published under a more restrictive license, you must ascertain what rights you have under that license. At a minimum, review the license to make sure you can use the content. Contact that publisher if you have any questions about the license terms – PLOS staff cannot give you legal advice about your rights to use third-party content. If the license does not permit you to use the content in a paper that will be covered by an unrestricted license, you must obtain written permission from the publisher to use the content in your PLOS paper. Please do not include any content in your PLOS paper which you do not have rights to use, and always give proper attribution.


Any maps included or created as part of a figure must use a basemap tile, shapefile, or image compatible with our CC BY 4.0 license. The basemap refers to the foundational geographic layer of the map (possibly including country boundaries, for example) onto which other layers of data are plotted. Satellite and aerial images may also be used as basemaps.

If your submission file inventory includes a map, we will ask you to provide a direct link to the source of the basemap and provide attribution to this source in the corresponding figure legend. We will also ask you to provide information regarding the terms of use or license information for the map.

If you created the map in a software program like R or ArcGIS, please locate the source of the basemap within the package used to generate the map.

Several sources provide map data and shapefiles within the public domain or with open access licenses:

As with all content, we ask that authors respect map providers’ requirements for attribution.

Removal of Content Used Without Clear Rights

PLOS reserves the right to remove any photos, captures, images, figures, tables, illustrations, audio and video files, or other confidential or proprietary content, from any article, whether before or after publication, if concerns are raised about copyright, license, or permissions and the authors are unable to provide documentation confirming that appropriate permissions were obtained for publication of the content in question under a CC BY 4.0 license.

Trademarks and Symbols

Please note that we cannot publish copyright symbols such as ©, ®, or ™. We are also unable to publish logos or other brand-related content.

Acceptable Licenses for Data Repositories

If any relevant accompanying data is submitted to repositories with stated licensing policies, the policies should not be more restrictive than CC BY 4.0.

Giving Proper Attribution for Use of Content

When citing a PLOS research article, use the “Vancouver style”, as outlined in our Submission Guidelines. For example:

Kaltenbach LS et al. (2007) Huntingtin Interacting Proteins Are Genetic Modifiers of Neurodegeneration. PLOS Genet 3(5): e82. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030082.

When citing non-article content from a PLOS website (e.g., blog content), provide a link to the content, and cite the title and author(s) of that content.