How to Properly Attribute Photos Under the Creative Commons License

Creative Commons license can help people recreate existing works. It definitely fosters creativity and ingenuity. However, the problem is that most of Creative Commons photos are not properly attributed, meaning people simply copy without any mention of the artist.

According to an infographic compiled by Foter Blog, more than 90% of the photos are not referred or credited to the original source. Not just that, less than 10% of the photos are not accurately attributed. The source might be cited, but a linkback is not provided. Some websites even provide a credit line for people to use, but the format is totally ignored. They just need to copy and paste the details into their websites, but no one seems to bother following.

The same source also shared that there are now over 227,230,423 photos under the Creative Commons license. Let’s make it clearer for people at the back:

  • >90% are not associated to the original source and >99% are not properly cited.

Every CC license:

  • applies to all the photos worldwide
  • is not changeable
  • is not exclusive

A CC license grants you the permission to:

  • copy or download,
  • modify or edit,
  • display it publicly,
  • and distribute

The conditions:

  • Attribution (BY) – You may copy, edit, distribute, and make your own version only if you mention the original artist.
  • Non-commercial (NC) – You may copy, edit, distribute, and make your own version, but it has to be for non-commercial purposes.
  • No derivatives works (ND) – You may copy, distribute, display, but you cannot make your own version. Adding your own twist is not allowed.
  • Share Alike (SA) – You may distribute your own version of an artwork. However, the new version must be under the same license agreement as the original version.

NOTE: Some licenses can contain a series of conditions. So far, there are 6 license types created by CC, and you can read more about it here.

Let’s go back to some important statistics:

  • The most popular photo categories are: 1) Travel, 2) Wedding, 3) Art, 4) Music, and 5) Party.
  • 1% of the 227,230,000+ photos follow a CC Attribution, Non-Commericial, Share Alike condition. Additionally, 27.1% follows a CC Attribution, Non-Commericial, No derivatives condition.
  • ONLY 30% of the total photos are allowed for commercial use.

How to properly cite original owners?

  • All the CC licenses require attribution. There is NO one correct way of citing the source, but the photos should have 4 things included:
    • The author – This should include the name or username, and link to the person’s profile.
    • The title of the work – Mention the title of the photo if available, and add the link on where the photo is found.
    • The CC license type – Is it BY, BY ND, BY SA, BY NC, BY NC ND, or BY NC SA?
    • The copyright notice – Add a line or two stating that the photo is under Creative Commons.

Where to put the attribution?

  • There are 2 options for this:
  1. Under the photo – This is the preferred placement.
  2. At the end of the blog post – A good alternative is also listing all the sources at the bottom of your document.