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How to Use and Cite Creative Commons Resources

Creative Commons
Internet users who upload their own images, sounds and text are increasingly using the Creative Commons license. A Creative Commons license allows a publisher to indicate how and under what conditions some one else can make use of their content. For example, I can put some pictures on my blog and display a CC license that says:

Creative Commons Attribution

What this means is that some one else visiting my site can use my pictures on their own web site or some other project as long as they properly attribute me as the creator of the work.

If I had displayed a license that said

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial,

then the visitor can only use my images on non-profit projects and he or she will have to attribute me wherever they are using my images.

Resource: Go here for a full list of Creative Commons Licenses and their descriptions.

Example of Creative Commons usage: Images

Images are probably the most important media we all use in our projects and we are constantly looking for interesting images to help us add value to our presentations, papers and lecture notes. is currently the most popular image hosting site and many Flickr users license their images under Creative Commons. Let me demonstrate how we we can:

  1. Search for Creative Commons licensed images on Flickr; and

  2. Cite or attribute the images when we use them in our projects.

Part 1. Finding Creative Commons Licensed images on Flickr

You can only use images from those Flickr members who have decided to offer their work under a Creative Commons license. The images can be used as long as you follow the conditions that the particular license spells out.

The easiest license to use is the Attribution license. Images licensed under Attribution can be used anywhere as long as you attribute the publisher. Do note however that if the image features people, you might not want to use it out of context (for example in a commercial that is endorsing a product). Such use may require you to get a model release from the people appearing in the picture.

Resource: Go here for Flickr images under Attribution license.

You will see a search facility on the page. Let's say I want to find a picture for an article I am writing about food in the Kagoshima area in Japan. I will search using the keywords "Kagoshima Food".

Flickr will show you all the images matching your keyword.

Click on the picture you like. In my case, I clicked on the second image. This will take me to the page containing that image:

Note the name of the publisher. This is shown on the right hand side and reads like this:

"Uploaded on September 29, 2005 by naotakem"

Keep a record of this publisher information. Also include the title of the image. "Hirame Sashimi"

To download the image, look for a button called "All Sizes" above the image.

Click on that button and Flickr will give you a choice of image sizes. Choose a size and click on the download link just above the picture.

Also, some Flickr members use a user name. You can click on the user name and go to a page that displays the profile of the user. Here you can find the full name of the user. Note down this name too. If the user has not published his/her full name, note down the user name.

In this case, the user's full name is Naotake Murayama

Part 2: Using the image and properly crediting (attributing) it

If you are using it on a print document attribute it in the following format:

publisher name, photo title, date uploaded via Flickr, Creative Commons License

This attribution appears just below the picture, wherever you are using it.

For example the Kagoshima food picture I downloaded will be attributed as:

Naotake Murayama, "Hirame Sashimi" September 29, 2005 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

If you are using the image on a website, it is preferable to put the link to the original image. My citation will then look like:

Naotake Murayama, "Hirame Sashimi" September 29, 2005 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

(via Jessica Coates, see comments below)

Other Creative Commons Media Sources

You can use this Creative Commons search facility to easily find music (from Owl), video (from, assorted media from SpinXpress, Flickr images and Google & Yahoo searches.


Educators need to respect the copyright of others. However, the Creative Commons license allows us to use images, video or audio created by others, as long as we respect the requested attribution indicated on the Creative Commons license.


Preetam Rai

By Preetam Rai, technology trainer at Teaching and Learning Centre, Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

[Image at top of article: LuMaxArt Gold Guys With Creative Commons Symbol, via Wikipedia, 11Mar09]

Reader Comments (13)

I've just got one amendment to your suggested attribution. Under Creative Commons licences, you're also suppose to mention the Creative Commons licence the material is under. This is so people know you have permission to use it, and that they can use it too.

So for your example, the full CC attribution would be:

Naotake Murayama, “Hirame Sashimi” September 29, 2005 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Or you can use one of the great" rel="nofollow">licence buttons CC provides, to make the attribution shorter/neater -

March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

The article is very well written with lots of illustrations and examples that made it easy to read and understand. Well done and thank you. Lim Choon Boo.

March 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLIm Choon Boo

Thanks Lim Choon Boo. Thanks Jessica for pointing out the missing part in the attribution.

March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPreetam

At least I know how to properly credit the publisher. The other sites I visited were very good at explaining what I can and cannot do, but there wasn't even one actual example. :(

April 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Lim

How would you attribute the work if say you wanted to use flickr images in a TV commercial.

These are images where you are permitted to use commercially, and adapt, distribute and build upon.

March 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAjay

@Ajay: Regarding your question about using Flickr images in a video... Show the attribution as titles on the video screen. need not be large. As long as it is legible. You can also email the photographer to ask if they don't mind the attribution along with the end credits. - Preetam

March 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPreetam

Hi Preetam. Good article. I have one more question for you. Where do you recommend actually placing the CC credit on a website? Is putting it in the html code as a comment okay? Or should it be visible on the page? If on the page, does it have to be on the picture itself? Could it be in the TITLE attribute so that it appears when you hover the mouse on the picture? How about a link at the bottom of the page that says "credits" and links to another webpage that gives credit for all the images on a site? I'd really appreciate your feedback.

March 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

Anthony, there is no fixed rule as to where to place the credit. I would place it somewhere where visitors can clearly see it. You can place it just below the photograph or at the end of your post or website page. Link a the bottom of the page is fine.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPreetam

If there is only one photo on the page then giving credit at the bottom of the page is ok, as long as you specify "photo credit" so visitors do not think you are giving credit for some other part of the page content. In the case of multiple photos on a single page I would recommend placing a photo credit near the photo to avoid confusion. If you want a cleaner look, you might also give each photo a small label or use a similar strategy to tell them apart in the credits.

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom Caswell

Thanks Tom.

May 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPreetam Rai

[...] Students will ask what they can use… and that is when I will pull up the Flickr Creative Commons search  Next, we will read through the blog post on this page: [...]

what if i use the images, do i have to credit it right next to the image??? can it be somehwere else another page or anywhere else?

July 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterInterested user

Hi Interested User,
Mere attribution is generally no defence to a claim of copyright infringement. **Assuming** that you have permission to use the images and are not violating any copyright law in your use, you should as a matter of ethics attribute the source of your images. The basic point to attribution is to make sure that anyone who wants to find out more about the image - such as who created it, or who it belongs to, can find that information easily.

So the credit could be anywhere, but it would probably be aesthetically most pleasing yet most practical to provide a hyperlink either from the image itself or just below it, with name of creator/owner (or both) and name of source website or other publication, and date of retrieval since many Internet resources tend to disappear after a while. It would also be good to add in the year image was created as copyright expiry is calculated from that year.

August 4, 2014 | Registered CommenterEditor
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