I'm using a photo I found on Flickr that is licensed with the Creative Commons non-commercial attribution license. I'm modifying this photo and then will be giving it as a present to a friend. Does anyone know if I still need to attribute the photo? How about if I do it verbally?


For a photobook, I'd consider the best solution would be to add a credits section on the last page, or on the book flap. Morally, that respects the spirit of the licence, and since it's a private use, I wouldn't be too concerned about the legal side of things.

Something along the lines of "Thanks to So and So, who provided the original photograph on which image on page 5 is based (link to flick page)" would be just perfect.

  • 3
    Yes, attribution, to have any value, must be public. Placing it in a credits section is a good idea. – labnut Oct 28 '10 at 19:00
  • I should probably add that for a more public non-commercial use (eg: something a non-profit would use), I'd recommend checking with the artist. – Bossykena Nov 3 '10 at 19:18
  • 1
    Not only does it respect the spirit of the license, it also respects the letter, and the recommended practice on the Creative Commons web site. So, yeah. :) – Please Read Profile Jan 14 '11 at 5:13

You do need to give attribution any time you create a copy of it (even if you have modified it yourself).

What if you write an attribution on the back (and give attribution verbally)? That way, if your friend forgets where you said you found it, he/she can look on the back of the photo to find out.

As others have suggested, your best bet is to contact the person who took the picture, and ask how he/she would prefer you attribute it. I am going to guess that most people who post photos on Flickr under a Creative Commons license are going to be thrilled that you like their work and want to use it, and will be very reasonable with coming up with an attribution scheme that fits aesthetically in your photo book.

  • Writing the attribution on the back is a great idea, but the photo will be part of a photo book and the attribution may just ruin the look. – MCS Oct 28 '10 at 15:09
  • 3
    @MCS, you can often put photo credits in tiny text along the side of the photo and it's subtle enough that it doesn't ruin the look. (Or, as others have suggested, put all the credits in the back.) – Reid Oct 29 '10 at 0:18

If you want to really avoid issues, be they moral or legal; your best bet is to seek advice from the rights holder (i.e. the person who took the photograph) - They may be willing to licence it to you with different terms, or advise what options they'd see as acceptable for the attribution (If it were me, and I'd released a photo under those terms, I'd accept a note on a credits page, for a photo book; For a newspaper, I'd want it as a caption)


The Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (version 2.5) states quite clearly:

Attribution — 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 to comply to the letter of the license you must contact the author (if they have not made clear how they would like the work attributed). Hopefully they will be reasonable!

  • 1
    FTR, months later, that text is not actually from the legally-binding license. It's from the "human-readable summary". The full legal text is at creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/legalcode, and includes the phrase "Such credit may be implemented in any reasonable manner". I think, actually, that "in the manner specified" in the summary is (accidentally) misleading. It just means that the author or licensor chooses what the credit should be (e.g. "mattdm" or "Matthew Miller"), not necessarily how it's shown. – Please Read Profile Jan 14 '11 at 5:11
  • 1
    Thanks for that! So the human readable summary is confusing whereas the legalese version is clear and to the point, what is the world coming to?! – Matt Grum Jan 14 '11 at 10:42

You do not need to contact the rights holder to exercise the CC licence terms. The author might specify how they want their credit worded, and what URL they would like referencing, but in the absence of that you can use your judgement - use their Flickr username and the URL of the photo page.

You simply need to provide attribution in a manner appropriate to the medium. For a framed photo for a friend, a caption on the back of the frame would be fine. If you were exhibiting in a gallery, a more visible caption would be appropriate.

  • Attribution is a public statement of authorship. Putting it on the back of a framed photo is not a public attribution. We are all photographers and should be willing and glad to give recognition to the work of other photographers. – labnut Oct 28 '10 at 18:57
  • 3
    @labnut, attribution should be consistent with other artwork in the same context; in a private home, the various pieces are typically not going to have captions or tags giving attribution. One asks the homeowner "who made this art" and they tell you; that's the attribution. Putting on the back is probably a good reminder. – Reid Oct 29 '10 at 0:16
  • 1
    @Reid Priedhorsky: This is an important debate. Defn: attribution - 'the act of establishing a particular person as the creator of a work of art'. Implicit in this definition is that it must be public. A private, hidden attribution has no meaning as it 'establishes' nothing. Not only that, the absence of a visible attribution is an implicit claim that the work is one's own. Finally an important reason for attribution is to give recognition to the author. A hidden attribution can hardly count as recognition. – labnut Oct 29 '10 at 6:48
  • 1
    And to the preceding I must add my 'fairness' argument that I mentioned before. As photographers we should expect each other to behave to one another in a spirit of fairness. This is a values argument with utilitarian value since such values help to create and bind together a community of like minded people to their common benefit. – labnut Oct 29 '10 at 6:57

Why don't send an email to the original photographer informing him of your modifications and probably also send a [digital] copy of it. Or perhaps upload the modified photo to your flickr account and attribute it to the author.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.