Where to put Creative Commons attributions on webpage?

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Where to put Creative Commons attributions on webpage?

Post by MB_ »


If Creative Commons imagery is used as a design element on a webpage (a photograph as part of a page's top-of-page hero section) what is the best way to fulfil the attribution requirement of the licence, given that Creative Commons 2/3/4 licences mention that you can attribute in a "reasonable manner"?

The reason this is being asked is because the typical way of adding attribution text/hyperlinks to the images would obviously be unsightly (although I appreciate that aesthetic is not necessarily important vs the requirement for correct licencing fulfilment) and is rarely seen in web design so is certainly not typical practice.

In case it matters these images would be only tangentially related to the content on the page (eg on a page regarding physio and the physical act of kicking, having a football as the image). It's also worth mentioning that the website itself would be for a small local business that provides a service, would have a contact form/contact details to lead people to contact them, but would not directly sell products on the site itself.

Based on the above I have four questions:

1. Would placing attributions for each image on their own separate page (and then linking to that page from the footer) be an acceptable way to fulfil the attribution terms of the licence?

2. If #1 is not an acceptable way to fulfil the licence's requirements, what alternative would constitute "reasonable manner" given the design constraints of not being able to add attribution/hyperlink directly alongside the image?

3. Regarding the site's content and purpose, does it sound like it would qualify as "commercial" given it doesn't directly generate revenue but would likely eventually lead to the business getting new clients?

4. Finally, given the potential for ambiguity as to what constitutes a "reasonable manner" of attribution, would it be safer to replace any Creative Commons images with more permissive licenced replacements (eg Pixabay, iStock, etc)?

Thank you for reading - and thank you this forum. I appreciate that no legal advice is being given here but this has been a wonderful resource and I'm appreciative of any responses regarding the above.
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Re: Where to put Creative Commons attributions on webpage?

Post by AndyJ »

Hi MB_

There are two separate issues here: attribution and what qualifies as commercial use with regard to CC licences.

. If you haven't already read the detailed explanation found on the Creative Commons' Wiki on the subject it goes a long way to answering your query. As they say, actual practice depends on the medium where the image is being used. The point about the 'reasonable' test is that it mirrors the way the law uses that term. It is what a normal person would think was reasonable and fair in the particular circumstances. Another way of looking at the issue is to ask yourself how you would react if you were the photographer and your image was being attributed in the same way. If the licence only asks for attribution, then it's a big concession on the part of the photographer when he/she could instead be offering the image in exchange for a licence fee. Any behaviour which looks like trying to avoid to need to credit the photographer or appears to indicate that the user couldn't care less about the photographer's rights, is therefore likely to be viewed as not reasonable. Don't forget that the Creative Commons attribution serves two purposes. The first is to credit the photographer or copyright owner, while the second is to inform the reader of the provenance of the image in case they would also like to use it. If you go to the bottom of the wiki page you will see they mention some technical approaches to achieve good attribution, but one they don't mention is using the mouseover and alt tags in HTML. If you are not familiar with these, you or your website developer can set up your website code so that when the user hovers their cursor over the image, a text box appears. The text box can then be set to contain the attribution*. The original function of this facility was to assist visually impaired users to navigate and understand the page they were viewing. While this is certainly not as good a full credit placed alongside the image, it can help where for aesthetic reasons an adjacent text credit is impractical.

Commercial Use. Again the Creative Commons Wiki provides some guidance on this. They take this a stage further by looking at how the term has been interpreted in various different jurisdictions here. However since the full report is 255 pages long you may just want to look though the executive summary! The key thing about a CC-BY-NC licence is that although the photographer is allowing users to freely use the image in non-commercial settings, he or she retains the right to commercially exploit their work of they wish. In other words any abuse of the NC licence undermines the photographer's ability to monetise their image for commercial purposes. The courts are used to adjudicating such scenarios when it comes to testing whether a legal fair use or fair dealing exception has been used fairly. They use the so-called Berne three step test to perform this balancing act. Again the best test is that of the objective neutral observer in deciding whether the site's purpose is commercial, and if so, the extent to which the presence of the image contributes to the success of the site.

If you have (reasonable) doubts about whether your use meets the both of these criteria, then, yes, you should move to using conventionally licensed images, although again here, care needs to be taken over the terms and conditions which attach to such licences, especially where the image is being offered under separate licences for editorial or display/commercial use.

* I can't demonstrate how this looks here because this site doesn't use conventional HTML. To see the effect, go to any Wikipedia page and hover your cursor over a word which appears in blue. A brief description of the word or term will then appear on a popup.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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