Clicking through from Flickr to the CreativeCommons.org definition for "Some Rights Reserved" you find that you can reuse an image as long as you provide attribution.

enter image description here

If we want to use the image in a website how should we provide attribution? And does it have to be visible to the casual observer? Should/can it be:

  • as an HTML comment (not immediately visible)
  • in the file name (not immediately visible)
  • in the ALT tag (more visible)
  • as a full blown caption inside or below or across the picture (easily visible)

An additional possibility has occurred to me:

  • Put a small Images by Joe Photos, Andy Archer etc credit in the footer (visible but not distracting)

Or should it be something else? Have I misunderstood the attribution thing?

  • 1
    This doesn't answer the question, but creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode#s3a2 says "You may satisfy the conditions in Section 3(a)(1) in any reasonable manner based on the medium, means, and context in which You Share the Licensed Material. For example, it may be reasonable to satisfy the conditions by providing a URI or hyperlink to a resource that includes the required information.". The phrase "any reasonable manner" is subjective, of course. Jan 6, 2017 at 20:18

4 Answers 4


BY (Attribution), which is a required part of every CC license except PDM/CC0, says:

You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

So you have to give attribution in the way the author requires it. See for example the guidelines from Stack Exchange and Wikipedia.

However, the author may not require simply anything (making it nearly impossible to reuse the content), but only: which name (not) to cite, and/or which URL (not) to cite.

If the author says that a HTML comment containing the original URL suffices, you could use a HTML comment, of course. You could say that the author gives you a "special" license here, which doesn’t necessarily have to be compatible to the CC license. If the author licenses something under a CC license and says that you are required to give attribution in a HTML comment, you could simply ignore that, reuse the content (under CC terms) and give attribution on the page.

IANAL, but I’d say you should give attribution in the same "place" where you use the content. E.g. if you reuse some CC licensed content on a HTML page, you should give attributon on that HTML page. And if you reuse content in HTML comments, you should give the attribution in HTML comments. And if you create a video with CC licensed material, include the attribution in the video. In the case of embedding an image (or video etc.) on a page, you should give attribution on that page. You’ll often see people giving attribution in the footer of page (and not directly near the content they reused), or people giving attribution on a separate page. Some probably only give in the metadata of a format. But I did not check the license text if this would be allowed.

What if the author didn’t specify any way?

Have a look at best practices in the CC wiki:

If the copyright holder has not specified any particular way to attribute them, this does not mean that you do not have to give attribution. It simply means that you will have to give attribution to the best of your ability with the information you do have.

They list five things, in short:

  • leave other copyright notices intact (resp. reproduce them)
  • cite the author’s (nick) name, possibly with a link to a profile page
  • cite the work’s title, possibly with a link to the original work
  • cite and link to the specific CC license
  • if you make a derivative work / adaption, communicate that

Creative Commons' "Best Practices for Marking Content with CC Licenses: Users" provides best practices for attribution. CC Australia team has developed a helpful guide to attributing works in different formats.

Basically the document outlines one should:

  • credit the creator;
  • provide the title of the work;
  • provide the URL where the work is hosted;
  • indicate the type of licence it is available under and provide a link to the licence (so others can find out the licence terms);
  • and keep intact any copyright notice associated with the work
  • 2
    thanks - and that's helpful - but it doesnt specify how within the web page the information should be delivered
    – hawbsl
    May 24, 2013 at 8:09

There is a Google Webmaster post from 2009 saying that you should wrap image and license like that:

<div about="image.jpg">
    <img src="image.jpg">
    <a rel="license" href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/">Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0</a>

However, I have checked another of their blog posts and this "license wrap" has not been used. I doubt that this is still recent.

I have checked the HTML source of Flickr.com how they specify the licenses, and they do not use it either, example:

<div class="view photo-license-view requiredToShowOnServer" data-view-signature="photo-license-view__UA_1__backToURL_%2Fphotos%2Fdubstard%2Fwith%2F5917907777%2…">
    <div class="photo-license-info">
        <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/" class="photo-license-url" rel="license cc:license" target="_newtab">
            <i class="ui-icon-tiny-2cc"></i>
            <span>Some rights reserved</span>

It's still not clear what the correct way in HTML is.

In other websites it is said, just use the Choose-a-License page and add the CC-HTML to your website. But obviously, there is no limitation for certain elements this way.

Maybe someone can help and add more sources?


In my opinion it should be as visible as the image - meaning a caption below the image would be fine.

  • thanks Marcel, is there anywhere that this is documented as the conventional/proper/legal/morally correct way to do it?
    – hawbsl
    May 17, 2013 at 13:52
  • I'm not sure if they have defined this but personally I use hover over captions to attribute. I'll be interested to see if anyone can actually find a official statement regarding this. May 17, 2013 at 14:03
  • I have no documentation at hand, but i would be consider this way as fair, because usage and attribution uses the same "channel".
    – Marcel
    May 17, 2013 at 15:47

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