July 6th, 2011

How to Properly Attribute CC BY - a Guest Blog Post by Creative Commons

The Noun Project welcomes Jane Park from Creative Commons as this week’s Guest Blogger!

We receive a lot of emails about best ways to attribute our icons throughout various mediums, and with User Submissions launching soon we thought it’d be important to give everyone a good run-through of how to properly attribute works licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY).  When using a CC Attribution work created by us, please attribute it to The Noun Project and include a link whenever possible.



by Jane Park, Creative Commons

My colleagues and I get asked the following question, “How do I properly attribute a Creative Commons licensed work?” in some form or another at least once a week. Which is why we added it to our FAQ and developed a set of best practices for marking on our wiki. Specifically, http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Marking/Users is the page where we collect best practices for people looking to mark their use of other creators’ CC-licensed works. 
Keeping in mind that these are only best practices, and that I am not a lawyer (please consult your lawyer if you want legal advice—as I am not equipped to give any!), here are some things to note when it comes to attributing CC-licensed works, specifically works licensed under the CC Attribution license (CC BY). I also provide examples. 
When reusing any CC-licensed work (via sharing the original or a derivative based on the original), it is your legal obligation to include what license is being used, as well as abiding by the license conditions provided by the licensor, aka the creator or content owner of the work. All CC licenses require that you attribute the original author(s). For CC BY, section 4 (Restrictions) of the legal code tells you what this entails. Generally speaking, it implies five things:

  1. If the work itself contains any copyright notices placed there by the copyright holder, you must leave those notices intact, or reproduce them in a way that is reasonable to the medium in which you are re-publishing the work.
  2. Cite the author’s name, screen name, user identification, etc. It is nice to link that name to the person’s profile page, if such a page exists.
  3. Cite the work’s title or name, if such a thing exists. It is nice to link the name or title directly to the original work.
  4. Cite the specific CC license the work is under, and link to the specific CC license, ie. for CC Attribution you would link to http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0.
  5. If you are making a derivative work or adaptation, in addition to the above, you need to identify that your work is a derivative work i.e., “This is a Finnish translation of the [original work] by [author].” or “Screenplay based on [original work] by [author].”


Here’s an example of an attribution of a CC BY-licensed photograph from Flickr:
Tunisian rap” by Joi Ito is used under a CC BY license.

Alternatively, if you can’t link the actual words, include the full url’s:
“Tunisian rap” (http://www.flickr.com/photos/joi/5899156482/in/photostream) by Joi Ito (http://www.flickr.com/people/joi/) is used under a CC BY license:http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0.

Here’s an example of an attribution of an adaptation of a CC BY-licensed photograph from Flickr:
This is a desaturated, cropped, and enlarged version of “Tunisian rap” by Joi Ito, used under a CC BY license.

Is your attribution good enough?

If you’re worried about whether your attribution is good enough, ask yourself whether an interested viewer is able to easily discern who gets credit (attribution) for the original work, and the freedoms associated with that work (license notice). If they can, great! If not, consider whether you are making a good faith effort to use the licensed work according to its terms. When in doubt, you can always ask the publisher of the work, as they may have already provided attribution guidelines.

Attributing CC-licensed works in different mediums
The above best practices for attribution apply to various mediums as well, though the actual marking may vary depending on the medium. For any medium, including offline works, consider publishing a web page with attribution information about the work you are using, and making the work accessible/downloadable from that page. Doing so makes it easier for you to include attribution information about the work, as well as enabling the work to be found by search engines and other web discovery tools.  Also include attribution in the work itself, if possible. 
For example, if you are using a CC BY-licensed symbol from The Noun Project in some slides for your PowerPoint presentation, note the attribution information on the web page where you make the presentation available. Also include the information in the presentation itself, in a slide at the end of the presentation. If you want to make your attribution more visually apparent, you can choose to use a CC marker, a variety of which are available for various mediums at http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Marking/Users#Download_Markers.
More information about marking CC licenses across various mediums is available at  http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Marking/Users#Marking_Specific_Media.
If you are licensing your own work under a CC license, best practices are also available for creators at  http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Marking/Creators
Again, if you have additional questions check out our FAQ, or feel free to email info@creativecommons.org. Happy marking!

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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