Cite Something

See something? Cite something.

… [we] had plenty of experience with our work making its way across the internet, both with and without attribution to our hard work, and so we thought we would make a comic/chart about how to do it right. Consider this reference material…


If you see something you want to use on-line, have a look at Not Quite Wrong’s Attribution Flowchart, or a similar guide. Please click on image to view full-size.

Attribution Flowchart by & Click on image to view full-size.

Don’t plagiarize!

That may be easier said than done. Creative Commons (“CC”) licensing simplifies matters significantly. Yet CC licenses, are optional, and while frequently specified, certainly not universal.

Prior to the age of digital publishing, this was not such a widespread concern. Print media channels had in-house counsel and other persons trained in the rules of fair use and content re-purposing. 

Attribution is preferable to Retribution

I felt like I bore the Mark of Cain after an incident due to one of my very first blog posts.

I used two photos of snails for a brief post on the beauty of spirals in nature. I noticed the snails on the Flickr photo site. My account on Flickr was nearly as new as my WordPress blog site. I did read Flickr’s Terms of Service for photo reuse. This was possibly the first TOS for a website I’d ever read, other than the TOS for Second Life! 

A few days later, I found myself the subject of scrutiny, communicated quite eloquently by the abrupt increase in page views indicated by WordPress’s statistics plug-in!

In those days, I wasn’t aware of the more comprehensive tracking available via Google Analytics. Thankfully.

The snail photos belonged to a skilled amateur photographer. She was a mature woman fluent only in languages with which I wasn’t familiar.

My initial blog post did not give appropriate attribution to her.

I amended it, but did not do so correctly under the terms of the CC license. No good.

I tried again. The photographer was not quite satisfied. Which she expressed as best she could.

I felt so guilty, misusing this woman’s work! Finally, I got it right after a third revision.

Fortunately this was prior to the additional complications of Getty Image licensing, which is a default or opt-out for the entire Flickr site.

Image sharing is particularly confusing

Here are other questions, about general practices. I was unsure if a watermark on a photo meant that:

  • I was not allowed to re-use it under any circumstances, or
  • The watermark alone was sufficient attribution and no other details should be given.

Although I now know that the second condition is inadequate, I’m still uneasy and uncertain about re-use of watermarked images.

The two leading image sharing sites, Flickr (owned by Yahoo!) and Picasa (a Google product) offer an All Rights Reserved designation, as well as all varieties of CC licenses. Yet I sometimes observe All Rights Reserved images reproduced.

I’ve read the Flickr help pages and remain confused regarding fair use. Does All Rights Reserved override the basic Terms of Service of the Flickr site, which states that all publicly viewable images on Flickr can be reproduced as long as the image links back to the site with appropriate attribution? And what of the new Getty Image licensing?

Fail-safe way to cite right

When in doubt, send a quick email or IM to the artist or photographer. Most reply very quickly. I’ve asked artists for permission to reproduce their work despite the All Rights Reserved or copyright sign. Most have given permission immediately, or within a few hours of visiting my sites and confirming that they were non-commercial.

My single experience with a private foundation’s photos was only slightly more involved. A curator wanted to preview the content and placement of the image prior to posting– a reasonable request. In every case, I was allowed to post images free-of-charge.

Yes, attribution and/ or obtaining permission is the right thing to do. It’s also personally worthwhile, for the sake of your peace of mind!