Using the TASL approach
Attribution is not only a legal requirement, it’s also good practice. For both copyrighted and openly licensed materials, you should always try to follow good practices on attribution. Even if the work is openly licensed, there are numerous benefits to attribution: for example, good attribution helps other users find the work, and use it themselves.
All the six CC licenses require attribution. The way in which you attribute might vary, but the rule is that your attribution has to make clear that the use that you are making of the material does not constitute an endorsement of your use or reuse by the original author.
The way in which you provide attribution is connected to your planned end work and the possibilities that the medium of that work allow. A good practice for attribution is to always include the “TASL” information, an acronym that stands for “Title, Author, Source, License”:
- Title: the title of the work1
- License: the license which the work is being distributed under.
Creative Commons has developed an extensive FAQ on all the facts that you need to know on “how to properly provide attribution”. They also have a simple resource page on “How to give attribution” and a more extensive wiki page on “Good practices for attribution”. When in doubt, make sure to check those resources.
Pro Tip: Make a copy of the website that is offering you the CC licensed content using the Wayback Machine “Save page” function or by uploading the content to Wikimedia Commons.
Additionally, platforms that have built-in support for CC licenses (such as Flickr or Wikimedia Commons) tend to make the process of attribution slightly easier, by allowing you to copy the relevant information that you need to build the TASL information.
The person releasing a work can’t require the attribution to be located in a specific place. This is very important when doing storytelling, because you might combine a very large number of resources into a single new work, and providing all the attribution for those sources might be challenging. For example, if you are doing an infographic using different icons and images, you can create a page called “Credits for resources for my beautiful infographic”, create all the proper attribution statements following the TASL approach, and then provide a link to that page in the infographic.
Some websites tend to add extra information on how you are supposed to attribute or how you are supposed to use the work. For example, such is the case of The Noun Project, that adds the two following suggestions when you download a SVG or PNG icon licensed as CC BY from their collection.
The text in the picture reads:
“You must add attribution:
- Use the embedded attribution if the icon is larger than 100px”.
- Copy the attribution text below and include it in a bibliography or image caption, or on a physical item or its tag”.
In situations using CC license, these are suggestions rather than requirements. In its FAQ CC clearly outlines that an author can’t require the exact placement of the attribution credit, but also clarifies that any additional restriction added to a CC license makes it no longer a CC license.
In a nutshell, always follow the TASL approach and make sure that the credit lines are clear wherever you place them. If for whatever reason you forget to attribute a work, under version 4.0 of the licenses (and note that only version 4.0 allows for this) you have a 30 day window period to fix the mistake after being discovered (see relevant FAQ here).
1 Note that with version 4.0 of the CC licenses title is no longer a requirement, but is always good practice to still include it.