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We have a customer who expressed a need to allow the "Author" of a document to edit the permissions of that specific document, without giving him/her the "Edit permission" - permission in the entire library.

Is there any way to achieve this, without breaking inheritance on each separate document and manually/programmatically edit permissions?

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AFAK it is not possible to implement that without breaking role inheritance. You can automate this using a sharepoint designer workflow as shown in example here.

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