I found some nice images on Flickr using the advanced image search to show only those that are creative commons licensed; I want to use the images in a commercial website I am building.

One of the images can be found here. The Creative Commons license that is linked to says

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).

On the Flickr page I don't see anything indicating how to attribute it. Is it enough to give the photographer's name as a caption to the image? Or as a comment in the source of the page? I don't want the attribution to take up too much room or prominence on the site, as it's orthogonal to the purpose of the site (it's not a site about photography, it's a podiatrist's office).

I want to make sure to do right by the photographer, so any advice would be appreciated.


8 Answers 8


I'd suggest contacting the photographer to see what their "specified manner" might be, as a matter of courtesy. But the actual legal requirements are (by design) quite reasonable for reuse.

If you read the actual license terms in their full, legal-language form, the key relevant point appears to be:

Such credit may be implemented in any reasonable manner; provided, however, that in the case of a Derivative Work or Collective Work, at a minimum such credit will appear where any other comparable authorship credit appears and in a manner at least as prominent as such other comparable authorship credit.

In other words, you can put the attribution with your other copyright notices and about-this-site stuff. You don't have to put it as a caption directly with the image at all. (Although doing so would probably be nice.)

The Creative Commons wiki has a "Marking/Users" page, which specifically suggests that images used online should be put in a "credit list".

The following is from the Creative Commons FAQ:

How do I properly attribute a Creative Commons licensed work?

All current CC licenses require that you attribute the original author(s). 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. Generally speaking, this implies five things:

  • If the work itself contains any copyright notices placed there by the copyright holder, you must leave those notices intact, or reproduce them in a way that is reasonable to the medium in which you are re-publishing the work.

  • Cite the author's name, screen name, user identification, etc. If you are publishing on the Internet, it is nice to link that name to the person's profile page, if such a page exists.

  • Cite the work's title or name, if such a thing exists. If you are publishing on the Internet, it is nice to link the name or title directly to the original work.

  • Cite the specific CC license the work is under. If you are publishing on the Internet, it is nice if the license citation links to the license on the CC website.

  • If you are making a derivative work or adaptation, in addition to the above, you need to identify that your work is a derivative work i.e., “This is a Finnish translation of the [original work] by [author].” or “Screenplay based on [original work] by [author].”

In the case where a copyright holder does choose to specify the manner of attribution, in addition to the requirement of leaving intact existing copyright notices, they are only able to require certain things. Namely:

  • They may require that you attribute the work to a certain name, pseudonym or even an organization of some sort.

  • They may require you to associate/provide a certain URL (web address) for the work.

If you are interested to see what an actual license ("legalcode") has to say about attribution, you can use the CC Attribution 3.0 Unported license as an example. Please note that this is only an example, and you should always read the appropriate section of the specific license in question ... usually, but perhaps not always, section 4(b) or 4(c):


In an awesome display of irony, the above text is marked as licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, but the page does not provide clear and concise way to provide attribution for itself. It appears to be a collaborative work by these authors.


I think the point is to have the copyright and CC-licence note in such place so that a viewer a) wouldn't mistake the image as yours, and b) would find the author if they look for it.

So just ask yourself:

a) Are there places that might make someone think you've authored the images?

b) Where would someone go look to see who created the work?

Put the notice in those places. Usually this would just be the "about" section of the site. But there are many cases where a site contains some content that's clearly attributed to a different author than the rest of the site (e.g. a news article). If the image is used in such context, then a small caption near the image or a note near the content author's name is the way to go. Alt-text to the image is also a good option in these cases, but I don't think I would rely on it myself, because that sort of depends on whether the target audience understands that the image might have a hover text - not all audiences do.

Note: One possible source of mistaken authorship would be those silly "(c) Someone 2011" or such notices at the bottom of every page. So if you happen to have one of those, well, either just remove it, or add a notice like "except some CC-licenced images" there that then links to the page where you have the copyright information.

In any case, there's no need to contact the author for clarification. The whole point of CC is to make fair sharing possible without contacting the author. When the author placed their work under CC, they directly made the choice for others to be able to use their image under the terms that CC defines - including how they are attributed. That said, the author might of course be delighted to know that you've decided to use their image, so no harm in it either if you want to. :)


I think it needs to be visible to the viewer. So... putting it in the source is not really enough, since that's not really intended to be seen. You could put a small caption beneath the photo, or perhaps include it in the "alt" tag for the image, so it would display if you hover over the image.


I can tell you what I've done in the past, but I wouldn't consider this a definitive answer.

You need to decide two things: what is the text of the attribution, and where should that text be places.

In this case, the photographer's Flickr handle is Rennett Stowe. Depending on space availability, I might write one of:

(Note that I've trimmed the URL down a bit, but it still works.)

For placement, I like to put it in small text alongside the photo, as you might see on a book jacket or in some magazines. Examples include my home page as well as the maintenance downtime page for one of my projects.

If it were me, listing the credit in an "about" or "credits" page would be acceptable, perhaps with duplicate credit in alt text as a supplemental bonus (since many people don't know about alt text), though a plain text attribution like the above would be the best.

An example of the former is on my older trip reports (e.g.), where I have a blanket attribution at the beginning and specific exceptions when needed at individual photos. For newer reports, each photo is attributed individually regardless.

Note that all of these are hobbyist/nonprofit sites. For-profit institutions will get higher scrutiny.

BTW, IANAL and I'm sure that goes for everyone else here too.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Quick comment on your last line: I am not a lawyer either, however I would find it more surprising if there were not lawyers who visited a question like this one (eventually, anyway) than that there were. And in fact, it would be unsurprising to me if this site had a lawyer or two in general - if not right now, then as the site continues to grow. I know at least one lawyer who's an avid photographer. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – lindes
    Jan 12, 2011 at 16:09
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @lindes, that's a good point: what you'll often find people who are lawyers saying at the end of posts like these is "IAAL but TINLA" - "I am a lawyer but this is not legal advice". That's because making a post on an Internet site doesn't create an attorney-client relationship, so it's not Legal Advice with everything that comes along with that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Jan 14, 2011 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Heh, I don't think I've seen that in its acronym form, but that totally makes sense. And I expect to see it -- or something like it -- on this site, sooner or later. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – lindes
    Jan 14, 2011 at 17:47

In my opinion, the HTML snippet provided by Flickr itself is a good example of how to attribute CC BY photos online. Look:

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/username/..."
   title="Work title by username, on Flickr">
   <img src="http://farm6.static.flickr.com/.../....jpg"
        width="282" height="500" alt="Work title" />

It contains:

  • a link to the original page with the title, description, meta information and conditions of use
  • original work title visible on mouse-over
  • screen name* of the author visible on mouse over

*screen name is not necessarily unique or real name

I suppose that linking to the original is important. And it is the preferred way to make references online. It allows the author to be uniquely identified and easily found, it promotes the author and his other, often related, works, it allows the viewer to contact the author directly and search engines to see that the works of this author are used by someone else. It also allows the viewer to get additional information about the photo: read its description, meta information, e.g. see EXIF and geo tags, see the detailed conditions of use.

Author's screen name in visible print next to the photo is optional. Removing the link and leaving only the name next to the photo conforms to the letter of the CC BY licenses, but it is not in its spirit, and it is not good online: screen names are often not unique, and almost nobody will google for that screen name, check all would-be-similar Flickr accounts, browse through their entire archives just to look at other photos from the same series, for example. So just link to the page where you've taken the photo from, and it's enough for hypertext media.


You don't need to take permission to use the Creative Commons image. The fact that the author has put it under Creative Commons is enough to take the image and use it. However you may need to ask the author what kind of credit does he require you to display for the image. This hasn't been properly documented.


I think we need to distinguish between 1) what is legally required, 2) what is good practice and 3) what is courteous.

Legal requirements
The other answers have spelled out the legal requirements, which are simple. Creative Commons licences are, by design, meant to make the sharing of creative content easy and hassle free and not to need the intervention of a lawyer.

Good practice
The print industry have long ago developed the simple practice of putting a line below/above or alongside an image that looks something like this (Credit Joe Soap, AFP, CC-BY), i.e. Author, Image source, Licence. This gives the photographer public recognition, which is what most photographers need. It is a public way of saying 'this is not my image'. People naturally assume that images without a credit are your own. For this reason hiding the credit somewhere else in some other page is not good practice (though perfectly legal). For the same reason pop-up titles, though legal, are not good practice. Good practice requires that credits be immediately obvious. The credit line should also be a link to the image source.

It is courteous to notify the author that you are re-using his image, to tell him where you are using his image and to thank him. This can be as an email, or a comment.


Interestingly, I just read about a case of CC copyright infringement in Israel, in which the judge ruled ~$15,000 in compensation to 2 hobbyist photogs who posted their nature photos in Flickr and these photos were used, without permission or credits, by a publication of an Israeli travel guide.

The article is in Hebrew, maybe Google can translate it for you.

Update: the lesson to learn here is that you better contact the photographer and ask explicitly for his terms before actually using the photos under any assumptions.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This sounds like it should be a comment on the question and not an answer... \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Jan 12, 2011 at 15:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rfusca - see my update. This is certainly a bit of information that adds to the whole picture (...) in this discssion. \$\endgroup\$
    – ysap
    Jan 12, 2011 at 15:21
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ yes, definitely should be a comment even with the update \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Jan 12, 2011 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think the "lesson here" is actually the one you draw. The intent of these licenses is to clarify and make consistent legally-binding terms of sharing. You don't have to ask each time, but you do need to follow the given rules. In this case, the license used was apparently some variant of CC BY-NC-ND, and the book publisher blatantly ignored the conditions. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jan 13, 2011 at 3:35
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @ysap: sure, and I actually suggest that in my answer. But I don't think this story illustrates that at all. If the publisher had followed the basic requirements of the license and the photographers still sued, that would have been one thing. But as it is, this doesn't test that one way or another, so it's not really a good background for speculation on that point. (It does, however, validate that the license has teeth, at least in Israel.) \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jan 13, 2011 at 4:29

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