I am a fan of creative commons as I have mentioned before.  I use other people’s works like their photos and their music in things that I do. I like to consider myself karmatically even with creative commons as I also contribute to creative commons with my photos, my blog posts and my podcast. I like to give as much as I get.

Using Creative Commons work is easy, because the creator has already told you how you can use their work by affixing it with a creative commons license. You don’t even have to ask permission, as long as you follow the terms of the license. I personally will sometimes ask and almost always let the creator know that I used the work with the caveat that if they are not cool with it, I will take it down. I have never had someone ask me to take it down and most people are thrilled to hear that someone is using their work (It makes my day when I see someone use something I created).

The most open form of creative commons is the by attribution license that says you can pretty much do anything with it, as long as you give the original author credit. I prefer to use this license when I consume other people’s work, because it is the least ambiguous. I get leery about using the non-commercial ones on this site, because even though I make no money off of it, it is somewhat related to my job (I blog only on my own time, but I do blog about work). The only thing that is non-ambiguous about the attribution clause is how you give attribution.

Some works are easy

If you are using a photo on a web page it is very easy to link back to the author’s original work and you can use the “tooltip” and text to say who the work belongs to. I take it a step further by actually saying the photo is “used under creative commons” with a link to the specific license. I consider this a form of advertising for the creative commons licenses.

Some works are not so easy

It gets a little tougher to do attribution with other forms of work. Take the theme music to the Thirsty Developer podcast. Both the intro and outro music are original works by Pete Prodoehl. It would be very wonky in the show if as the music was fading out we did a voice over saying “The proceeding music was created by Raster and is used under creative commons”. I have tried a couple of times to do a voice over at the end of the show saying something to that effect and I have never been happy with it. So instead of putting it in the show, we created a web page called “show credits” with the attribution to Pete and to Erik Klimczak who created our logo. The link to “Show Credits” is visible on every page of the web site.

What about PowerPoint Slides?

Dave Bost asked me how I gave attribution to photos that I use in PowerPoint Slides to the creator. I love the Style of using a photo rather than a bunch of bullet points. It can be very powerful to have the photo help tell the story and maybe add a title to the slide. I have a couple of decks that are nothing but a collection of photos that I use. Because the audience is seeing the slide and not necessarily interacting with it, it is hard to use a link. You also don’t want a lot of text to get in the way of the photo itself. So here is the methodology I use:

  • In the “notes” of the slide deck put the full url to the original work or the author’s profile or home page (as appropriate). This allows anyone that you send the deck to get the full information. You do always share your deck, right?
  • Put a visible, but tastefully sized Creative commons logo on the slide deck with a link to the license. The Creative Commons site has all kinds of logos and links.
  • Next to the logo put “By ” where creator is the name or handle of the user.

Here is an example of one that I use when talking about REST and SOAP. The photo is Whoa ! Betamax Tapes ! originally taken by shinnygogo:

PowerPoint with CC

I hope that most people consider this appropriate attribution. Hope this helps.