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How to attribute Creative Commons licensed materials

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Creative Commons Information Pack

for Teachers and Students

This information guide was jointly developed by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation through Creative Commons Australia and the National Copyright Unit of the COAG Education Council.

For further information contact Creative Commons Australia at info@creativecommons.org.au.

All Creative Commons licences require that users of the work attribute the creator. This is also a requirement under Australian copyright law. This means you always have to acknowledge the creator of the CC work you are using, as well as provide any relevant copyright information.


For many users ‚Äčof CC material, attribution is one of the hardest parts of the process. This information guide is designed to help you ensure you are attributing the creator of a CC licensed work in the best possible way.

What to include when attributing a work

‘Common-sense’ principles apply to providing attribution across all CC licences. When attributing a work under a CC licence you should:

  • Credit the creator;
  • Provide the title of the work;
  • Provide the URL where the work is hosted;
  • Indicate thetype of licence it is available under and provide a link to the licence (so others can find out the licence terms); and
  • Keep intact any copyright notice associated with the work.

It is important to always check whether the creator has specified a particular attribution.

This may sound like a lot of information, but there is flexibility in the way you present it. With a bit of clever formatting and linking, it is easy to include everything, particularly in the digital environment.

Of course, you do not have to include any information you cannot locate. However, you should make a good effort to find the relevant information for the material you are planning on using. Think about what you would want if it was your material that others were using.


Open Attribute (http://openattribute.com) is a tool to assist users of CC material to properly attribute.  Once downloaded, it will provide attribution information for CC licensed content which users can copy and paste into their own work containing CC material.  Below is a step by step guide on how to get Open Attribute on your browser:

1.      To download, go to http://openattribute.com/;

2.      Hover over the ‘Install the Addon’ icon to select which browser to download
         Open Attribute for;

3.      Select the browser that you want to download the addon for;

4.      Once you’ve installed the Open Attribute add on, take a look at the right-hand
         side of the URL bar, and you’ll see a little icon.  Any time that icon appears you
         are on a page containing license information.

5.      To copy the properly formatted attribution information, click on the icon then
         click ‘more information’.  Copy and paste the basic information for your

Identifying the creator

Sometimes it can be hard to identify the person who created the material you are using. Use common sense when determining who to attribute.

If you’re on a blog or news website with a number of authors, attribute the person associated with the content you are reusing. Try to find a by-line (eg by Joan Citizen) or the name of the person it was submitted by. If there is more than one author of the content, you should attribute them all. It is a good practice in cases such as this to attribute the publication as well.

Other times, it may be difficult to find the name of the creator. This is often the case for websites like Flickr or Youtube, where the author may only be identified by their username. It is always a good idea to see if you can find their legal name, for example in the ‘about’ or ‘biography’ section of a website, on a profile page, or in the copyright notice (eg © Joan Citizen 2009). While looking to find the creator’s legal name, you should also check whether the creator has asked to be attributed in a particular way. If you can’t find the legal name, use the pseudonym or username if there is one.

Attributing others

The creator of the work may also require other parties to be included in the attribution, such as co-creators, sponsors or publishers. Where other parties are identified you should also include them in the attribution. If you are unable to provide details of all the parties, be sure to provide details of where you found the work (eg the website, magazine, journal).

Always include the CC licence

Even though it can sometimes be difficult to provide all the information, you must always include the details of the CC licence that the work is available under. This is so other people know that you have permission to use the work, that they can use it as well and under what conditions.

As you can see from the example above, the CC licences can be identified in several ways. You can list the licence name in full, use the abbreviated form of the licence or use either the normal or compact licence buttons.

This table shows the full licence name, abbreviated form and both licence buttons for each of the six standard CC licences.

Link to the site

As you can see from the above examples, it is also important that, where possible, you provide a link to the site where you obtained the original work. This gives other people the ability to easily access the original work themselves. Depending on the medium in which you are reusing the work, this can be done by either using a hyperlink or the URL as text. If the original work does not have an associated URL, you do not have to link back to the original work. 

Remixing the original work

If you change the original work in any way, such as cropping the work, changing the colours or replacing words, you will be creating a derivative work of the original. You should always attribute the original work in any derivative work and identify that changes have been made to it.

Often the simplest way to do this is to use the phrase “This work is a derivative of…” and attribute the original work as you would normally. If your work incorporates a number of derivative works, you might say, “This work includes material from the following sources…” and list each original work. It is a good idea to state the order you are listing them in eg “This work includes material from the following sources (listed sequentially)…”

Attributing in different mediums

Where possible, the same information should be included regardless of how you are reusing the work. However, sometimes this is impractical or impossible. The CC licences let you change the exact placement, language or level of detail from medium to medium, as long as your attribution is still ‘reasonable to the medium’.

For example, when you are using CC material in a book, it is easy to provide a long, written attribution with all the information next to the work, including the name and URL of the licence spelled out in full (this is always a good idea when you are using CC material offline, or in a document that you think people are likely to print out). However, when you use a CC song in a podcast, it is trickier to provide this level of information.

Below are suggestions for how you might attribute a CC work in different mediums. Remember, however, to always check whether the creator has specified a particular attribution.

Where you should place the attribution

For text resources (eg books, worksheets, PowerPoint slides etc), include the attribution details next to CC work or as the footer along the bottom of the page on which the CC work appears.

For video works, include the attribution information near the work as it appears on screen during the video.

For sound recordings (eg podcasts), mention the name of the artist during the recording (like a radio announcement) and provide full attribution details in text near the podcast where it is being stored (eg blog, school intranet, learning management system etc).


Keep track of everything you use

Finally, in order to attribute properly, it is important that you keep track of all the materials that you use the as you use them. Finding materials later can be very difficult and time consuming. Use table below to keep track of all the CC material you use as you use it.

 Author               Title                          Source
(eg website)