Attribute your sources

Attribution basics

Under the Creative Commons licenses we discussed in the last section, giving attribution is a legal requirement for use. Even if content is in the public domain and there's no legal requirement to give attribution, it's still a best practice to note the source and copyright status because:

  • It helps re-users (and, down the line, you!) identify original sources and how they can be used,
  • It adds credibility, since it's an academic and professional norm to give credit when using other people's work.

. Here are some helpful guidelines for providing attributions:

  • For Creative Commons licenses, you want to at least provide the Title, Author, Source (including a link, when available)and License.  See examples on the Creative Commons Best Practices for Attribution wiki.
  • Unlike citations, attributions are not required to be in a specific format. You may, however, want to include the license info with citations in a specific format like APA or MLA so you don't have redundant information in both a reference list/bibliography and attribution statement.
  • Where you provide the attribution depends on how much you're using and the format of the work. If you used an image, you might note the attribution in the image caption. If you used an excerpt in a chapter or page, you  might include attributions at the bottom of the page or chapter. If you modified an entire work, you might note this in the front matter (if it's a book) or in the credits (if it's a movie)

Time saving tip: I highly recommend using the Washington Open Attribution Builder to automatically generate your attributions in a standardized format!


Remixing content with different licenses

One of the reasons to provide clear attributions (even for public domain materials) is because OER adapters often need to mix materials that are available under different licenses and copyright statuses. You might, for example, use some images that are CC BY-NC and some text that's public domain in your CC BY licensed OER. You can't change the license or copyright status of other people's materials, but you can add a CC Open license to the portion of the work you contribute.

If you create a derivative of (i.e., adapt rather than copy) a work, the license of the original work (if it's ND or SA) may restrict what you can do with the resulting work and how you can license it (see this license compatibility chart from the Creative Commons wiki). The best way to handle this is to keep track of the sources and licenses of the materials you use and talk to a librarian before incorporating sources that have SA or ND licenses.

Further resources

Last modified: Thursday, October 3, 2019, 12:02 PM