Types of Rights and Licensing

The PLS Rights Management Group have created a list of types of rights and licensing often seen in publishing. The list is extensive (but not exhaustive) and is a working document that will be updated periodically based on new licensing trends and developments as well as new technology, which has a direct impact on how publishers' license their content. 

The table below is a condensed version of the full list which also includes relevant sector information. The full list can be downloaded as a printable PDF here.

If you would like to add a licensing type to the list or have an example that would fit, please email rights@pls.org.uk. 

Licensing type

Content typically licensed


Typical customer

Learn more/ Examples


Whole books/ articles

Licensing the rights to republish an entire work, translated into one or multiple languages, typically for distribution in a foreign territory

Other publishing houses



Figures, tables, photos, text extracts, illustrations, covers

Licensing the rights to reuse portions of a published work as part of a new work. This could be the incorporation of journal tables and figures in pharma marketing material, or reuse of a text extract in a new book, textbook use, exam use (if ancillary uses falls beyond the concept of fair dealing), set Dressing Clearances for book covers used in the background of TV and film.


Can also including Story Trails- typically from children’s trade uses extracts of text and artwork to create a trail for consumers to follow and learn from.

Pharmaceutical companies, marketing agencies, other publishers/authors, commercial organisations, charities

Using someone elses’ intellectual property (UK Gov)

Examples: Story Trail with National Trust




Whole books

Licensing the rights to create an abridged or unabridged audio version of a published work, such as an audiobook, for sale via a channel partner. This could include audio summaries of books, and audio translations of works. Can be sold as physical or digital format. Can also license master recordings to third party publishers (i.e US rights holders) to publish under their imprint.

Audiobook publishers and distributors


Digital (aggregator)

Books, journals or magazines

Licensing the content and rights to include whole works in third-party aggregator products, who often charge a subscription to end users to access content from a range of publishers

E-book subscription services, journal aggregators



Digital (product integration)

Books and journals

Licensing content and rights to incorporate whole works (or parts of works) in to standalone third-party digital products, such as a collection of journals integrated within a healthcare training platform, or reaction data in a chemistry database

Online education providers, healthcare platforms, fintech, scientific research technology/platforms




Wiley digital licensing

Wiley Image licensing

Bible software and apps, learning platforms

Machine reading (text & data mining, machine learning, artificial intelligence)

Books, magazines and journals, metadata or images

Licensing the right for third parties to use automated technologies to access, read, analyse and draw new connections across a large corpus of content (full text, with metadata and/or images). This could also include licensing for use as a training data set for a Machine Learning algorithm.

Pharmaceutical companies, chemicals industry, R+D intensive industries, finance, tech companies

Text & Data Mining

Use case: Wiley, Harvard, Lumina


Collective licensing

Books, journals or magazines

Collective management organisations (CMOs) work on behalf of rightsholders, licensing the rights for small proportions of content (typically one chapter or article) to be copied or shared internally within an organisation. These licenses allow organisations to be copyright compliant, without needing to ask rightsholders for individual permission for day to day uses of published content.

CMOs, who license educational consortia, governmental institutions, corporates

What is collective licensing? (Video)

PLS for publishers with licensing through CLA, NLA (some magazines only) and/or via other members of IFRRO

Film/TV dramatization or documentary rights


Licensing the rights to allow a television or film adaptation to be created based upon a published work.

Television production companies, film studios, theatre companies, script writers


Content syndication

Whole books, journals or magazines

Licensing the rights for other platforms to publish works simultaneously, often to expand the reach/audience beyond the original publisher’s own platform.

Social networks, other publishers platforms

Use case: Hindawi & ResearchGate

Document delivery

Journal articles or book chapters

Licensing the rights and content to deliver individual articles on demand to end users. Document delivery services can be integrated in third-party information management systems

Document delivery services, selling in to corporate libraries, educational institution libraries


Book club rights

Whole book

Licensing a reprint of the work for a specific sales channel only, usually with reduced royalty rates to author

No current UK customers, (rarely currently licensed)


Serial rights

Extracts from books

Licensing extracts from a work in newspapers/periodicals (including on-line versions) for publication ahead of book publication (1st serial) or after book publication (2nd serial)

(Mainly UK) Daily and Sunday newspapers, magazines and on-line equivalents



One-shot periodical rights

Whole book

Licensing whole book for serialisation in a periodical

Newspapers and magazines and on-line equivalents (rarely currently licensed)


Merchandise rights

Artwork, characters and/or Trade Marks from books

Licensing artwork or characters or themes from a book for non-book products.

Wide range of licensees from stationery to textiles, food, soft toys etc

Examples: McDonalds themed Happy Meals, Peppa Pig sleepwear. Paddington Bear soft toy

Radio and TV reading rights


*any audiovisual element can be categorized under this, as methods of distribution are changing. 


Licensing text (abridged or unabridged) for spoken (undramatised) radio or TV broadcast.  If a work is illustrated this can be accompanied with non-dramatic display of all or some of the illustrations.

(Mainly UK) national public broadcasting and associated production companies,  bloggers/influencers/YouTubers.

Examples: Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, Book of the Week

Territory-specific reprint rights


Licensing reprints of books in English language with minimal adaptation for regional publication (e.g. US rights or low-price reprints for developing markets)

Other publishing houses


Picturisation Rights


Adaptation of books into strip cartoon, graphic novel, comic or manga formats (but not merchandising rights)

Other publishing houses


Digital Application Rights (Apps)


Adapting books into digital apps—could be a crossover with dramatisation rights depending on the application (games, points earned, or an app to develop reading skills with no animation etc).

Digital Content Providers, Developers, Film and/or Merchandise rights holders, Digital Educators.




Format-specific reprint rights


Licensing reprints of books in English language for publication in alternative format (e.g. hardback rights, paperback rights, luxury editions)

Other publishing houses


Digest and condensation rights


Licensing printing of abridged versions of books in same or other languages.

Other publishing houses or periodicals

(rarely currently licensed)

Examples: Reader’s Digest condensed books (historically)

Download a printable PDF copy of the full list here