6 Things about Image Attribution

I heard a joke recently where a photographer goes to a dinner party and is approached by the hostess who remarks, “I love your pictures – you must have a wonderful camera.” He waited until the conclusion of the party and as he thanked the hostess for her meal, he said “thank you for a lovely dinner – you must have a wonderful stove.” As a writer, I am particularly aware of copyrights for written work, and this has enhanced my awareness of the copyrights for visual images used on the web. Some photographers have very open policies about sharing their work while others hold their copyrights very close to the vest. In effort to respect both the wishes and the copyrights of artists, I am painstakingly checking the images I use on my websites and clearly labeling the attribution. In addition, I’m taking down images if I don’t have the right to use them on my site.

As I go through the tedious process of double checking the copyrights of all images I use on my blogs, I thought I’d add some words of wisdom to benefit others who might want to do the same.

1. Creative Commons is Amazing

While working to add interesting images to my blog posts, I’ve found Creative Commons to be a lifesaver. When you find a great image, it’s often incredibly challenging to determine the copyright and usage restrictions. As more creative types start to license their work using Creative Commons, it becomes infinitely easier to see if you are allowed to use the image, and if so, how.

Attribution: 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.

Attribution-ShareAlike: 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.

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

Attribution-NonCommercial: 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.

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs: This license is the most restrictive of our six main 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.

2. Flickr Images

The repository of Creative commons licensed images available through Flickr is immense. You need to use your own creative discretion to choose images that will enhance your posts and are actually of reasonably high quality, but if you’re confident in your eye you can fimd great images. It’s also worth noting the need to examine the images for other potentially copyrighted materials unintentionally included in the photograph. It’s easy to see at a glance what are the attribution requirements for these images and to appropriately link to the artist.When using Flickr Creative Commons images, you can get attribution information in a snap. Adding the link to imagecodr.org you can generate code that is easily embedded directly into your blog, complete with Creative Commons detail. I’m not entirely thrilled with the look of the final product, but it can be an incredibly easy way to properly attribute the work.

3. How I Attribute with imagecodr

  • Copy the Flickr URL for the image I want to use
  • Visit THIS site and paste the image link, then click Submit Query
  • The next page will give you details about the Creative Commons license, HTML options and code, options to select image size, and a preview of how the image will appear when you add it
  • I find myself less happy with this alternative as the CC caption doesn’t line up the way I want it to, but it’s still a winner for ease of use

4. How I Attribute Otherwise


CC image courtesy of Smabs Sputzer on Flickr

Also using Flickr Creative Commons images, I sometimes attribute as such:

  • Click the “share” button for the Flickr image I want to use and copy/paste the HTML into the blog post
  • Click to edit the image and add text to the caption to indicate the Creative Commons license
  • Alter the sizing of the image if needed
  • Ensure the link correctly connects to the Flickr image link
  • If you use CC licensed images from a location other than Flickr, this method can still be used (where imagecodr cannot)

5. Google +

Though I use Flickr for many of my images, I’ve found there are amazing photographers on Google + willing to allow you use of their images if you just ask. In many instances, their requirement is similar to those on the Creative Commons site, enabling use of their work provided you attribute the artist and link to the work. Some artists might have very tight restrictions on their work, but if you approach them and ask permission, they might be willing to allow limited use of their work. It’s never a guarantee and you might never hear back from them, but it’s always worth the ask.

6. When in Doubt, Don’t!

If you can’t find the copyright licensing information for an image or aren’t sure of the explicit availability for use, find a different image. Some folks will quote “fair use” but personally I feel you should err on the side of caution and if you’re not sure you have permission to use an image, find a different image to use for your work.

While I explored many websites to gather thoughts and opinions about appropriate attribution, I want to credit Librarian By Day for assisting with many of my insights.


2 thoughts on “6 Things about Image Attribution

  1. Pingback: website | Pearltrees

  2. Pingback: Five Great Sources of Public Domain Images | Wait… Stop… Look!

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