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Proper Attribution

March 25, 2015

Free download icon from earlier post on where to find Copyright-free images still begs the question, “How does one give proper credit for public-domain (like the one on the left) or Creative Commons images culled from the Web?” The answer is largely dependent on the source. One unobtrusive way is to simply hyperlink the image to its source and include a download notice in its Title attrribute. What follows are a few simple guidelines and examples.

Except for the few completely public domain sites such as (that only offers its sharing policy), most sites will provide attribution guidelines. Some, like PhotoPin (using the Flickr API), will even allow you to search for Creative Commons images, and then download the photo along with the proper attribution link. You can then simply paste the code into your image caption (as I have done on the right) or onto your Webpage. Ours is a WordPress site, and I have started to include attribution information in the Description field of images I upload into the media library for anyone else who might want to use the image elsewhere.

I generally like to follow the Creative Commons best practices for both CC and public-domain images, though I do sometimes get lazy and neglect to properly attribute the latter. I am trying to get better. In that vein, UBC has posted a very good Image Citation Guide, and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation has published the excellent Attributing Creative Commons Materials.

The rule-of-thumb is that CC attributions ideally present the following basic information in some way:

  • Title of image
  • Creator name
  • Source of the image (usually in the form of a URL to image source page)
  • Any copyright information included with image (such as a watermark)
  • licence information (including link back to CC documentation page if possible)
Photo by Morgan Sessions

by Morgan Sessions at (license) Open in same window

Alternative Text
CC0 stock image  by Morgan Sessions
 Image Title Attribute


Caption (to open in same window/tab)
by <a href="">Morgan Sessions</a> at <a href=""></a> (<a href="">license</a>)  Open in same window



by Morgan Sessions at (license) Open in new window

Caption (to open in new window/tab)
by <a href="" target="_blank">Morgan Sessions</a> at <a href="" target="_blank"></a> (<a href="" target="_blank">license</a>)  Open in new window


Clock by Ryan McGuire at

Clock by Ryan McGuire at (license)

Clock by Ryan McGuire at <a href="" target="_blank"></a> (<a href="" target="_blank">license</a>)