Probably because there are a lot of clearly defined academic style rules around citation formats, many people think there are clearly defined legal rules about attribution or citation, and copyright. In the U.S., most of the time, there really aren't. However, if you are using a work via its Creative Commons license, you are legally bound, by the license/contract to provide a certain minimum attribution.
Basic elements of Creative Commons credit:
- The creator's name (or other form of identification, like a website username)
- The work's title (not required in most recent, CC 4.0 licenses)
- The Creative Commons license through which you are using it.
- An indication of changes or alterations you have made, if any
- Relevant links, if possible
Unlike academic citation styles, there is no specific, proscribed form in which these elements must appear. You simply have to provide them in some kind of reasonable form.
An academic citation might be appropriate (though you'd have to modify most academic citation styles to include the CC license information), or not. Credit directly at the moment of use might be appropriate (for example, an image caption on a presentation slide), or credit could be provided in another reasonable spot (for example, on a "credits" slide, or in the (linkable) text information accompanying an online video.) While credit is required with Creative Commons licenses, the actual form it takes can be quite flexible.
Licensors (the person or people who have granted the license, often the creators) can request that attribution take a particular form - such as an employer granting a license in a work the company owns, but requesting credit to a few individuals within the company who created a work. Licensors can also request that they remain anonymous; complying with the Creative Commons license then may involve indicating why you are not providing credit.
An instructor uploads an article to share with students on a course website. Demonstrating academic citation styles, the article might appear on the reading list as follows:
Halsey, L. G., Watkins, D. A. R., & Duggan, B. M. (2012). The Energy Expenditure of Stair Climbing One Step and Two Steps at a Time: Estimations from Measures of Heart Rate. PLoS ONE, 7(12), e51213. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051213. Copies provided via a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license.
An image appears in a newspaper article. The image may be credited in a caption (better), or at the end of the page (good) as follows:
Red substance in half-filled test tube by Horia Varlan. Used under a CC-BY 2.0 license.
More Info and Examples
- Best Practices for Attribution from the Creative Commons wiki - several good examples.
- A detailed comparison of differences in attribution requirements across different versions of the Creative Commons licenses.
Unless otherwise noted, all content on the Copyright Information section of this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
This web site presents information about copyright law. The University Libraries make every effort to assure the accuracy of this information but do not offer it as counsel or legal advice. Consult an attorney for advice concerning your specific situation.