Creative Commons
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Step-by-step guide to attributing Creative Commons-licensed images

BobWP reader seeks step-by-step guide

A while back I wrote a piece that first appeared on BobWP called Using Creative Commons images on your site with confidence (I republished it here too). Recently a reader of BobWP asked a question about the detailed mechanics of finding a Creative Commons-licensed image and applying an attribution statement to one’s use of it. He was trying to use images found through Google image and Flickr searches but wasn’t sure exactly how to go about attributing the image and was looking for a step-by-step guide.

In response, I wrote a brief step-by-step guide in the comments on Bob’s site. Because that guide might come in useful for others, I thought I’d post it here on WP and Legal Stuff too.

Key steps

1. Search an image repository that has Creative Commons-licensed images

Find an image and ensure it is licensed under a Creative Commons licence. Flickr is a good source and I’ll use that as an example from now on. Do an initial search for the topic or subject you’re interested in by using the search form on the Flickr homepage:


2. Refine your search results

When you do a search, it will reveal all images that match your search terms, regardless of whether the images are licensed for re-use. This means you have to refine your search. To do that, on the results screen, click on the dropdown menu called “Any license”:


(The dropdown name “Any licence” is not very clear as some images are not licensed at all). You want to select either “All creative commons” or one of the three options below it. Which one you select depends on what sort of licensing rights you need. If you want to use an image commercially, you’ll need to select “Commercial use allowed” (and so on for the other options).

3. Select an image

Once you’ve done that, you’ll see a list of images that is confined to Creative Commons licensed images. Click on one you like. When you do, you’ll be taken to that image and you’ll see the licence that has been applied to it. Here’s an example:


4. Identify which licence applies

To figure out which particular licence applies, click on the “Some rights reserved” link and open it in a new tab (some people will know what the icons beside “Some rights reserved” represent, but many won’t, which is why I’m suggesting opening the link in a new tab). In this case, you’ll see that the licence is a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence:


If you look to the left of the page on Flickr (further above) you’ll see that the author is someone called Celine.

5. Use the image in your site

Use the image you’ve selected in your site as you wish (consistently with the terms of the applicable Creative Commons licence).

6. Add attribution statement

Within the editing window, add your attribution statement either below the image or, for example, at the end of the post or page. To create the HTML for the attribution statement, you can use this kind of format (the code is on the left and on the right you can see how it’s rendered):


Note that I’ve linked “Celine” (the owner of the photo) to the page on Flickr that contains the photo I’m using and that I’ve linked “Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence” to the Creative Commons page that contains that licence (which I accessed in step 4 above).

If you want to copy and paste that code so as to just swap out the bits relevant to the image you’re using, you can find it here on GitHub.

(Note that you don’t have to use my suggested wording, with the “Thanks to” component. I just do that to show some gratitude. I gave other examples in the original post mentioned above.)

That’s it!

That’s it. If anything is unclear, let me know. This gets easier and faster the more you do it.

Something for the future

By the way, I’ve half built and in the future will publish a tool that grabs some inputs from someone wanting to create an attribution statement and then spits out the HTML code for the attribution statement. Maybe that’ll make life easier. Hope so.

(Thanks to Celine for her dog image, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence. I have cropped the image. My cropped version above is likewise licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence.)


  1. It is not necessary to use the entire Flickr URL, which shortens the link you need to use for the attribution. I would recommend not necessarily using a URL shortening service , or otherwise, as some services read a possible re-direct and some social media, such as Twitter, do not accept some shortening services at all, marking them as a security problem and blocking the link through.

    I constantly use images found on Flickr, and would suggest to anyone to go there to find what is needed rather than using a plug-in. If you also have an account, thank the person who is letting you use the image in a comment with a link; this also brings a little extra publicity – although all links are no_follow by default – and the photographer can see how their image has helped, what it has enhanced.

  2. Richard Best says

    Hi and thanks for your helpful comments Viktoria. I’ve updated the post in the light of what you’ve said in your first paragraph. Thanks again.

  3. I’d like to add two great reasons for strongly attaching attribution to images you find.

    1) If you put the attribution with the image (I include it in the alt text as well as the caption) then you’ll be able to send a polite F.U. to Getty, etc., when one of their bots tries to bill you.

    2) If you put the attribution in it then you’ve got a defense in case someone else says it’s a) their image or b) that they’re depicted in the image.

    An IP specialist (ironically at Getty) told me you want attribution, and ideally model releases, not so much in case you’re accused by the photographer or model but, paradoxically, so you can prove to someone else that it’s not *their* image or a photo of them.

    The example was of a heavily bandaged hospital patient in a stock photo. Someone claimed it was a photo of their relative taken without permission. (Naturally they wanted damages and a cut of the proceeds.) Because there was documentation, including model release forms, the photographer could prove it wasn’t the same hospital, wasn’t the same time, wasn’t even the same country, and especially wasn’t the plaintiff’s relative.

    Point being you want to do attribution to be polite, but you also want to do it to protect yourself.

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