Doing the right thing isn’t just about paying for images – it’s also about making sure creators are correctly credited for their work. In most cases, if you’re using an image or other kinds of digital media like music, 3D files or videos, you’re legally required to attribute it, and failing to do so may lead to legal proceedings. Luckily, image attribution is quite straightforward; read on to find out exactly how to do it.


Attributing Creative Commons images


Unless you’re using an image that has been published under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, attribution is a legal requirement. The Creative Commons (CC) framework defines attribution as giving “appropriate credit,” which some people mistakenly believe is open to interpretation. In fact, what CC means is TASL, a simple and flexible method that accounts for the requirements of the various CC licenses.

To make sure images are correctly attributed, include the following details and make sure they are clearly displayed by the relevant image (ideally directly underneath):

  • Title: The title of the image.
  • Author: The name of the creator.
  • Source: The URL where the image is hosted (plus optional link to author profile).
  • License: The type of Creative Commons license it is available under, including a link to the relevant license.

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that has created different kinds of licenses to allow individuals to choose which type of copyright protection best suits them and their work.

The goal of Creative Commons, according to its website, is “to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in the ‘commons’—the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing.”


What do Creative Commons licenses do?

Creative Commons licenses allow their holders to grant broad permission to others to share, remix, use commercially, or otherwise use their work without having to ask specific authorization for each use.

This makes it “easier for people to share and build upon the works of others, consistent with the rules of copyright.” Lawrence Lessing, Stanford Law professor and founder of Creative Common

What are the different types of CC licenses?​

Attribution CC BY

This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.


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Attribution ShareAlike CC BY-SA

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.


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Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND

This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.


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Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.


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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND

This license is the most restrictive of the six main CC licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.


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