By the end of this chapter, you will be able to provide proper attributions for images you reuse or adapt in your work.
One condition of all CC licenses is attribution: when you reuse or adapt an image, you must credit the creator. What is the best way to do so?
Title, Author, Source, License
The acronym TASL, which stands for title, author, source, and license, can help you remember the best practices for attribution.
Title: What is the name of the material?
If a title is provided for the material, include it in the attribution. Sometimes a title is not provided; in that case, don’t worry about it.
Author: Who owns it?
Name the author or authors of the material. Sometimes, the licensor may want you to give credit to some other entity, like a company or pseudonym. In rare cases, the licensor may not want to be attributed at all. In any of these cases, just do what they request.
Source: Where can it be found?
Since you were able to access the material, you know where to find it. Provide the source of the material so others can, too, usually via a URL or hyperlink to where the material resides.
License: How can it be used?
You are obviously using the material thanks to its CC license, so make note of it. Don’t just say that the material has a Creative Commons license, because that would say nothing about how the material can actually be used. Instead, identify which of the six different CC licenses applies and provide a link to it.
Of course, if the licensor included a license notice with more information, include that information as well.
Lastly, is there anything else I should know before I use it?
When you accessed the material originally, did it come with any copyright notices, a notice that refers to the disclaimer of warranties, or a notice of previous modifications? Because that kind of information is important to potential users of the material, the best practice is to retain such notices by copying and pasting them into your attribution. Additionally, if you modify the work yourself, be sure to note that you have done so.
These best practices are based on actual CC license requirements. Noting the title is a requirement of all CC licenses version 3.0 or earlier and is optional for 4.0. Noting the author, source, and license, and retaining any extra notices is a requirement of all CC licenses.
TASL in Practice
These best practices are demonstrated throughout this guide. Let’s take a look at another example.
The attribution in the caption includes all the needed elements.
- Title: “Traveling Photographer”
- Author: msmmelendez, linked to their Flickr page
- Source: title linked to the Flickr page
- License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, linked to the license deed
Attributions of Modified Images
When you revise or remix CC-licensed images, make note of the changes and additions you have made as part of the attribution statement. Take a look at this example.
A description of the modification to this image—“Noir filter applied”—is included with the attribution statement. If the image were modified to such a degree that a new work was created, a new title, author, and (compatible) license of the derivative work could be declared along with the attribution statement. See Best practices for attribution for more information.
In this guide, attribution statements for images have been given in image captions. Attribution statements could also be provided at the bottom of the page (for example as a footnote) or all together at the end of the work, similarly to a bibliography or list of works cited.
What If Attribution Isn’t Required?
For images provided at sites like Unsplash, attribution isn’t required, but it is best to cite all your sources in any of your classroom assignments and scholarship.
This chapter is adapted from “Best Practices for Attribution” in the CUNY Pressbooks Guide by Andrew McKinney, Rachael Nevins, and Elizabeth Arestyl, licensed CC BY-NC 4.0. The learning objective and sample attributions are original to this version, and the text has been adapted for a student audience and to address the specifics of image attributions.