How to attribute, give credit to creative commons/copyleft/public domain content for web/print?


To be extremely succinct:

How to credit imagery used on a business card or ballpoint pen?

Inspired by this question, I started to think:

How do you attribute and give credit, when you use images and resources that are Creative Commons, copyleft; are in the public domain or have variation of “free” licensing?

(Some of the answers to the above questions grazes that question but it is not really the main issue in that question).

How do you attribute – say -:

  • a background tiled image for web?
  • a background tiled image for print?

(the point here being tiny-weeny images)

  • an icon set web?
  • an icon set print?
  • To make it more fiddly: tiny images you might use for t-shirts,
    printed objects such as ballpoint pens, t-shirts, keyrings,

For web; there seems to be divided between those who think that in the source code is fine and those who do not. For web you could make a link somewhere discreet that says “credits”. This does not really work for print. If you enthusiastically stand on the shoulders of giants, and use what is legally yours to use, your printed leaflet would be bogged down in 6point text attributions.

(Yes, there are differences between countries; I am asking on a general note.)

Edit: I could add GNU licenses, but that is usually pretty straightforward, as it is mainly concerned with software, code, programming snippets, digital programmable objects etc.


For a business card, my recommendation would be

  • Use a URL-shortening service to create a short url for the webpage that is hosting the original graphic with full attribution.
  • Use small print on the card to give the short url with the credit.

Sample business card with fine-print attribution link

If you have room, you might want to include the creator’s name as well as the link. You also might want to include the creative commons logo or CC-BY shorthand. It only adds a few characters and checks off another requirement of the licence.

More verbose example:
Sample business card with more complete fine-print attribution

As others have said, if you’re not willing to put minimum credit on the printed product, don’t use CC-BY content.

For an extra tiny printed product, like a pen, it of course gets extra tricky to find room for a credit line. If the pen includes the URL of your client’s website, and that website uses the same logo with clear and complete attribution and copyright information, I would probably consider that acceptable.

That said, it is a waffle zone. The example above on its own certainly doesn’t meet the full requirements of “attribution” spelled out by the CC-BY licence. However, the CC licences specify that attribution should be “reasonable to the means, medium, and context of use”, and so when space is at a premium a link to a page with the full copyright information would probably be considered reasonable. (But I’m not a copyright lawyer!)

In that way, CC is a more flexible than other licences which were drafted specifically for software and which therefore make assumptions about the medium by which something will be copied. For example, the icon above* is available as part of a public CodePen “pen”, and is therefore released under the MIT software license. The MIT licence requires all “copies” to include the copyright and licensing information, with no stipulations about reasonableness to the medium.

*(which I created and therefore am free to use however I see fit, including using it here!)

Source : Link , Question Author : benteh , Answer Author : AmeliaBR

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