How to attribute Creative Commons licensed materials

All Creative Commons licences require that users of the work attribute the creator. This is also a requirement under Australian copyright law. This means you always have to acknowledge the creator of the CC work you are using, as well as provide any relevant copyright information.

For many users of CC material, attribution is one of the hardest parts of the process. This information guide is designed to help you ensure you are attributing the creator of a CC licensed work in the best possible way.

The short link for this fact sheet is http://creativecommons.org.au/fact-sheets/attribution.

What to include when attributing a work

The same basic principles apply to providing attribution across all CC licences. When attributing a work under a CC licence you should:

  • Credit the creator;
  • Provide the title of the work;
  • Provide the URL where the work is hosted;
  • Indicate the type of licence it is available under and provide a link to the licence (so others can find out the licence terms); and
  • Keep intact any copyright notice associated with the work.

This may sound like a lot of information, but there is flexibility in the way you present it. With a bit of clever formatting and linking, it is easy to include everything, particularly in the digital environment.

Of course, you do not have to include any information you cannot locate. However, you should make a good effort to find the relevant information for the material you are planning on using. Think about what you would want if it were your material that others were using.

Example

FlickrStorm is an online search tool that helps you find high-quality, CC-licensed Flickr material and automatically generates an appropriate attribution. Searching for the keyword ‘bird’ with ‘Photos you can use commercially (Attribution)’ selected in the advanced search drop-down list brings up this image:

Photo: "Flamingos Partying" by Pedro Szekely. CC BY 2.0 Generic.

Here an example of how you might attribute this image:

‘Flamingos Partying’ by Pedro Szekelly available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/2040577615 under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0.

However, FlickrStorm provides a much shorter attribution in the bottom right hand corner of the photo.

Flickrstorm attribution notice. Photo: "Flamingos Partying" by Pedro Szekely. CC BY 2.0 Generic.

Although the FlickrStorm attribution is very short it provides access to all the information requested by the CC licence (and more) by using clever linking. When you roll your mouse over the Creative Commons (CC in a circle) logo a pop up gives you the type of licence the image is under and a link to the CC licence.

Flickrstorm licence notice. Photo: "Flamingos Partying" by Pedro Szekely. CC BY 2.0 Generic.The photographer’s username links to the their photostream on Flickr. From there you can access their Flickr profile. The photo itself links to the photo’s Flickr page, which includes the photo’s title and other details. Finally, the ‘contact’ link gives you direct access to Flickr’s internal messaging system and composes a message from your user account to the photographer.

In the offline environment, where you can’t link, the attribution becomes more lengthy. But it still doesn’t have to be intrusive.

Photo: "Flamingos Partying" by Pedro Szekely. CC BY 2.0 Generic.CC Attribution Button‘Flamingos Partying’  by Pedro Szekelly, http:// flic.kr/pedrosz/2040577615. Licence at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0.

By including a link to the photo’s Flickr page, it also gives access to all the other information and links.

The URL for Pedro Szekelly’s photo is listed as being http://flic.kr/pedrosz/2040577615 not http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/2040577615. This is because http://flic.kr automatically redirects to http://www.flickr.com. Similarly, the Flickr website automatically redirects when other parts of the standard URI are missing such as ‘photo’ or ‘people’. This is a useful way of displaying shorter text links without directing people to dead links.

Identifying the creator

Sometimes it can be hard to identify the person who created the material you are using. Use common sense when determining who to attribute.

If you’re on a blog or news website with a number of authors, attribute the person associated with the content you are reusing. Try to find a by-line (eg by Joan Citizen) or the name of the person it was submitted by. If there is more than one author of the content, you should attribute them all. It is a good practice in cases such as this to attribute the publication as well.

Other times, it may be difficult to find the name of the creator. This is often the case for websites like Flickr or YouTube, where the author may only be identified by their username. It is always a good idea to see if you can find their legal name, for example in the ‘about’ or ‘biography’ section of a website, on a profile page, or in the copyright notice (eg © Joan Citizen 2009). While looking to find the creator’s legal name, you should also check whether the creator has asked to be attributed in a particular way.

If you can’t find the legal name, use the pseudonym or username if there is one.

Example

You want to use this photograph that you found by searching Attribution licensed photos on Flickr for ‘aquariums’.

Photo: Vivian and the Giant Fish by Alan Bruce

The photo is under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 licence and is posted by user Qole Pejorian. You aren’t sure whether Qole Pejorian is the user’s real name, so you click on the profile name (ie ‘Qole Pejorian’) in the right-hand column, which takes you to the user’s photostream. From here, you access Qole Pejorian’s user profile by clicking on ‘Profile’ at the top of the photostream page.

On Qole Perjorian’s profile page there is a statement that tells you that the photographer’s real name is Alan Bruce. It also includes information on how he wishes to be attributed.

Attribution request. Photo: 'Vivian and the Giant Fish' by Alan Bruce. CC BY 2.0 Generic.

Following these instructions, you use the following attribution for the photograph, and leave a message on the photo’s Flickr page telling him about your use.

Attributing others

The creator of the work may also require other parties to be included in the attribution, such as co-creators, sponsors or publishers. Where other parties are identified you should also include them in the attribution. If you are unable to provide details of all the parties, be sure to provide details of where you found the work (eg the website, magazine, journal).

Always include licence information

Even though it can sometimes be difficult to provide all the information, you must always include the details of the CC licence that the work is available under. This is so other people know that you have permission to use the work, that they can use it as well and under what conditions.

As you can see from the example above, the CC licences can be identified in several ways. You can list the licence name in full, use the abbreviated form of the licence or use either the thick or thin licence buttons.

This table shows the full licence name, abbreviated form and both licence buttons for each of the six standard CC licences.

LicenceAbbreviationLicence buttons
AttributionBY
Attribution-Share AlikeBY-SA
Attribution-No Derivative WorksBY-ND
Attribution-NoncommercialBY-NC
Attribution-Noncommercial-Share AlikeBY-NC-SA
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative WorksBY-NC-ND

Link to the site

As you can see from the above examples, it is also important that, where possible, you provide a link to the site where you obtained the original work. This gives other people the ability to easily access the original work themselves. Depending on the medium in which you are reusing the work, this can be done by either using a hyperlink or the URL as text. If the original work does not have an associated URL, you do not have to link back to the original work.

Remixing the original work

If you change the original work in any way, such as cropping the work, changing the colours or replacing words, you will be creating a derivative work of the original. You should always attribute the original work in any derivative work and identify that changes have been made to it.

Often the simplest way to do this is to use the phrase “This work is a derivative of…” and attribute the original work as you would normally. If your work incorporates a number of derivative works, you might say, “This work includes material from the following sources…” and list each original work. It is a good idea to state the order you are listing them in eg “This work includes material from the following sources (listed sequentially)…”

It is important to remember that if you are using material under any of the licences that include the No Derivative Works element (ie Attribution-No Derivative Works, Attribution-Noncommerical-No Derivative Works) it cannot be altered in any way.Important information

Example

All the content on poet and hip-hop artist charliehiphop’s website is available under a CC licence. You decide to use one of Charlie’s poems, ‘Let’s Get Moving’, as part of a rap in a video they are making. You change the words to suit the video topic.

In the right hand column of his site charliehiphop displays the licence button and standard notice for the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence.

charliehiphop licence notice.Below this he has provided a link to his own guidelines that outline in detail how he would like his songs to be attributed.

charliehiphop attribution guidelines

To comply with the CC licence and these guidelines, you include this attribution for charliehiphop in the credits of your film.

The rap in this video was based on ‘Let’s Get Moving’ by charliehiphop available at http://www.charliehiphop.com. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0.

Attributing in different mediums

Where possible, the same information should be included regardless of how you are reusing the work. However, sometimes this is impractical or impossible. The CC licences let you change the exact placement, language or level of detail from medium to medium, as long as your attribution is still ‘reasonable to the medium’.

For example, when you are using CC material in a book, it is easy to provide a long, written attribution with all the information next to the work, including the name and URL of the licence spelled out in full (this is always a good idea when you are using CC material offline, or in a document that you think people are likely to print out). However, when you use a CC song in a podcast, it is trickier to provide this level of information.

Below are suggestions for how you might attribute a CC work in different mediums. Remember, however, to always check whether the creator has specified a particular attribution.

MediumAttribution tips
Books, magazines, journals
  • Remembering to spell out the licence type and URL in full, include the relevant attribution information next to the CC work or as a footer along the bottom of the page on which appears.
  • Alternatively, you can list the CC works in the back of the publication. If you take this option, it is best to indicate the page number of the work or order in which they appear in the publication.
Photos and images
  • Provide the relevant attribution next to the photograph, or close by (eg on the edge or bottom of the page) if that is too obtrusive.
Slideshows
  • Include the relevant attribution information next to the CC work or as a footer along the bottom of the work on each slide on which the work appears.
  • Alternatively, you can include a ‘credits’ slide at the end of the show, that lists all the materials used and their attribution details. Again, you should indicate the slide or order so people can find the attribution for a specific work.
Film
  • Include the relevant attribution information with the work when it appears on screen during the film.
  • If this is not possible, attribute the work in the credits, just as you would see in a normal film.
Podcasts
  • Mention the name of the artist and that it is under a CC licence during the podcast, like a radio announcement, and provide full attribution on your website, next to where the podcast is available.

Keeping track of everything you use

Finally, in order to attribute properly, it is important that you keep track of all the materials that you use as you use them. Finding materials later can be very difficult and time consuming. Use the table below to keep track of all the CC material you use as you use it.

Creator/sTitleSource (eg website)Licence
Pedro SzekellyFlamingos Partying http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/2040577615BY 2.0 Generic

Credits—Photos (in order of use): ‘Flamingos Partying‘ by Pedro Szekelly. ‘Vivian and the Giant Fish‘ by Alan Bruce . Both CC BY 2.0 Generic.

6 Responses to How to attribute Creative Commons licensed materials

  1. I really appreciate this information, for which I’ve been searching since long time!
    CC share creative works is here to get shared! and sharing requires attribution in some licenses.

    This guide is essential to stay legal and ethical.

    Thank you

    Mohamed

  2. I got confused with other free and PD licenses.
    ALL these CC family of licenses DO REQUIRE attribution.

    Thanks again for this simple tutorial!

    • Anne Fitzgerald says:

      Thanks for your feedback. I am glad we helped you understand the Attribution requirement that is found in all the CC licences.

  3. These are actually great ideas in regarding blogging. You have touched some nice factors here.
    Any way keep up wrinting.

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