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Providing attribution for creative commons photos used?

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stan welks
Providing attribution for creative commons photos used?
on Nov 26, 2013 at 8:27:54 pm

I am downloading Creative Commons images to use in Photoshop and Illustrator, and the licenses for the images ask for attribution. How do you provide attribute on a graphic to the various people who own copyrights? What is your approach with dealing with this? Do you provide attribution somewhere else separately? If this was for a video I could list credits at the end, though these are still graphics being made.

Thanks.



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Tim Wilson
Re: Providing attribution for creative commons photos used?
on Nov 26, 2013 at 8:54:19 pm

This may sound obvious, but the rule of thumb is to stick with the format you're using, giving credit to the Creative Commoner the same way you're crediting anyone else on the project.

The larger point is to make sure that the credit STAYS with the original artist as it moves downstream. But if the stream ends with you, some extra considerations enter in.

For example, pick up your favorite magazine. Chances are good that every photo credit for the entire issue is provided in super-tiny print somewhere in the back of the magazine. Another approach is to tuck all the credits for a single story right at the staple. Newspapers tend to put photo credits in the caption.

In other cases, for both newspapers and magazines, attribution goes right on the picture itself.

But if you're creating a graphic, say, an print ad, or just doing a single element on a web page, go with what you're using for other artists. If nobody else is getting credit (you, your designer, Getty Images, etc), then sorry Creative Commoner, that's just how it's going to go. Zero credits means zero credits. The only name on there is the clients.

I'm always comfortable with the latter, especially if the element is going no further. That is, you may have used a photo taken by Commoner1842, but now that it has been incorporated into your work, nobody ELSE can use it as a separate element. It has reached the end of its potential distribution through you.

If you want to be super nice, post credit somewhere else. Your website or twitter feed for example. Or drop the artist a line, with a link to the work. That's kind of above and beyond, but the fact is that the ONLY thing they want is credit, so figure out a way to be a nice person in a way that's appropriate to the work you're supplying to your client.

And to be honest, there have been some names that just weren't appropriate for use in a COW venue. :-) And with no way to get in touch with the artist, I had to leave things at skipping their naughty name, with, regrettably, no attribution, even where I'd otherwise have been willing. You can only do what you can do.

That may sound ramble-y, and I'm happy to expand where needed. I feel really strongly about the value of Creative Commons artists, and have used quite a bit of their work at the COW over the years, always taking care to do SOMETHING if possible, even if it has to be something a little different every time.

You're a good dude for asking. :-)


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stan welks
Re: Providing attribution for creative commons photos used?
on Nov 29, 2013 at 9:18:53 pm

"But if you're creating a graphic, say, an print ad, or just doing a single element on a web page, go with what you're using for other artists. If nobody else is getting credit (you, your designer, Getty Images, etc), then sorry Creative Commoner, that's just how it's going to go. Zero credits means zero credits. The only name on there is the clients."

Maybe I’m misunderstanding how CC works, or perhaps I was just confused by your explanation. It was my understanding that if the license for a CC image requests attribution, you have to credit them, regardless if it inconveniences your layout, etc. Are you saying this is not correct and I can provide them with credit for a flyer I make on some page on my website where people may potentially never see the credit or associate it with the flyer? OR just jot provide the credit at all?

Thanks.



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Tim Wilson
Re: Providing attribution for creative commons photos used?
on Dec 2, 2013 at 6:23:03 pm

[stan welks] "if the license for a CC image requests attribution, you have to credit them, regardless if it inconveniences your layout, etc."

In general, that's true. Using a CC image without attribution is exactly the same as using ANY kind of unlicensed media. Even if you can get away with it, it's the responsibility of artists like us to protect the rights of other artists, no matter how inconvenient it is.

HOWEVER, here's what the license actually says, with my added boldface: "You may satisfy the conditions in any reasonable manner based on the medium, means and context in which the Licensed Material is used."

So, imagine you're using a CC graphic in a TV spot. NOBODY gets credit in a spot. Mayyyybe if there's a cross-licensing deal for the music, but mostly, nobody gets credit.

Movies, broadcast episodes, etc -- EVERYBODY gets credit. You will indeed see a Creative Commons attribution in movie credits now and again these days.

You mentioned that you'll be using them in Photoshop and Illustrator, but I still don't how or where you'll be using them. For a print ad or brochure? NOBODY gets credit. Period. For a book, magazine or newspaper? EVERYBODY gets credit.

ALSO NOTE: many CC attribution licenses do NOT cover the use of the files as front or back cover photos of books or magazines. For those, you'll need to contact the author, who's clearly going to be open to some reasonable accommodation, or they wouldn't have made it available for free in so many other contexts.

Where attribution is appropriate, it should also note whether you're using the work in itself, whether you're creating a derivation (say, using it as one element in a multi-layered file), the TITLE of the work if there is one, AND a link to the CC license itself...

...AND, in most cases, the license calls for you to make your work available under the same license. If you're using a free license, YOUR work using THAT work has to be freely available under the same terms.

If you're doing this work for a client's website, that's obviously pretty unlikely. If the client says, no way, we're not going to let anybody use that image then case closed. You can't use the file under the terms of the license, which means you can't use it, period.

When in doubt about anything, contact the artist. My guess is that if you say, "I can't give you credit because the picture is part of a multi-layer file in a print catalog where NOBODY gets credit, but I want to let you know how much I value your work, and will credit you elsewhere" or something, the answer you get will be along the lines of, "Wow! Nobody has gotten in touch before! That's great!"

Or maybe they'll say, "Sorry man. I'm not in it for the money, but I AM in it for the credit." It's a no-go, end of story.

It goes back to the central issue that you identified -- there are rules for using other people's work, and the ONLY ethical position is to FOLLOW THE RULES. One set of rules requires payment, another set requires attribution, which may require jumping through an extra hoop or two.

You can finesse EITHER of these if you contact the rights holder, who will often waive their rights or help you in some other way. Ironically, most people who'll waive payment will require attribution.

Here's some more information on the specifics of HOW you should be handling attribution.

You'll notice that it assumes that you'll be using the file on the web. That's why, if you're not working on the web, your next step might be to get in touch with the artist directly. My assumption continues to be that they're not going to make this hard on you, or they wouldn't have posted their work on the commons in the first place.

Thanks again for bringing this up, Stan. Too many conversations about rights in the COW are people looking for ways to not pay rights holders. Standing ovation AND the crowd doing the wave for you trying to do the right thing.


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