I recently had a request here to attribute and confirm specific licensing for a picture I used on an answer. To me this falls under fair share. I've had quite a few arrogant demands in my short time here, but I don't worry about rubbish. This one seems to be hinting at a legal issue though.

In the absence of anything telling me I am required to and because I see a lot of pictures in this site with no such attributation or licencing details I'm wondering what this is all about.

Is this a real requirement, and if so, how come I don't see this happening with a lot of pictures? (haven't actually noticed a single one)

If someone came to me with proof they owned a picture I would immediately take it down if requested. Otherwise I don't see the issue.


2 Answers 2


Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

"Fair use" is a tricky thing, and it's not clear where the boundaries of it are. However, fair use really only applies when determining whether or not something is copyrighted. It doesn't mean you can use something without attribution. As an answer by Gilles on Meta Stack Exchange says,

Plagiarism is a whole different matter from copyright. If someone posts an image without mentioning who the author of the image is, this is plagiarism. (It is also usually a copyright violation, but again this is not a point to pursue as a third party.) Plagiarism is forbidden on Stack Exchange.

Even if you did attribute the image, this still might not be fair use. An answer by JoErNano states

Therefore, according to my interpretation, using that image [referring to his use of an image in an answer of his] was indeed a copyright breach, regardless of it being referenced and linked to. Indeed, I was neither commenting, nor criticising, nor making a parody of the copied content. I was using that image without permission to enhance the content of my answer.

That case seems pretty similar to yours.

In general, always, always, always attribute your images. A lot of people don't do this; I'm likely missed it on some of my answers, in the past. At the same time, though, just because you see people jaywalking doesn't mean you should do it yourself. You could still get hit by a car DMCA takedown. Here's an example of how I like to attribute images:

[![Comparison of conduction velocity in myelinated and unmyelinated neurons](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Conduction_velocity_and_myelination.png)](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Conduction_velocity_and_myelination.png)


<sup>Image courtesy of Wikipedia user WillowW under the [the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license](https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en).</sup>

This produces

Comparison of conduction velocity in myelinated and unmyelinated neurons
Image courtesy of Wikipedia user WillowW under the the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

The image links to the license in question (in this case, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) ) and gives the name of the creator.

In this case, it's worth noting that NASA's image use policy is generally very lenient:

NASA content - images, audio, video, and computer files used in the rendition of 3-dimensional models, such as texture maps and polygon data in any format - generally are not copyrighted.

. . .

NASA content used in a factual manner that does not imply endorsement may be used without needing explicit permission. NASA should be acknowledged as the source of the material.

Essentially, you should acknowledge that the creator of the image is NASA, but you don't need to link to a license, as the work is probably in the public domain (but you should always check!) - something you may want to note in the answer.

  • $\begingroup$ Did you honestly think at any time (without stretching the truth to make a point) that I drew that picture? $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 21:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Kilisi No, I didn't. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 21:22
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @Kilisi it is less about you not having created that image and more about giving credit where credit is due. While not necessarily the case with scientific images, there's a lot of problems with sites like 9gag and others that repost art and creative content without attributing and thus actively harming people trying to make a living from what others obviously seem to enjoy. $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T good point $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 11:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I dislike the misuse of <sup> to make small text paragraphs. The leading is wrong in appearance, as well as being semantically wrong markup. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 14:52

Well, it's loaded on imagr rather than referring to wikimedia commons or somesuch, and it appears to be a fine art drawing not just a chart or utility illustration. I have no idea where it came from, but the work is called “enter image description here” apparently.

The best thing is to have the hyperlink of the image point to the page where it came from. This is different from the totally useless and redundant code generated by the toolbar button, which links to the same URL that’s used for the IMG SRC. That's not needed because browsers can “open image in new tab” on their own. I can tell you used the toolbar because the title text is “enter image description here” which is also useless.

This same issue came up a week or two ago, discussing how to format attribution etc. and it was noted that pestering individual posters is not an effective way to get things to change.

I edited the post to link to https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/details.cgi?aid=11095 where the official versions can be downloaded, and this page is even more awesome in showing other pictures and video of the event.

  • $\begingroup$ Ahh cool... not where I actually got the picture from but nice anyway. Seems like I'm not actually obligated to do this linking and checking licences stuff... which is all I really wanted to know. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 9:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Kilisi worldbuilding.SE recommends that you give credit but does not require it. What we do require though is that you comply with the license for the image. If it's CC-0/PD then that's fine. If it's CC-BY for example then the license term for the image itself requires you to give attribution. In addition people may query an unattributed image just to make sure it is complying with the license. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 14:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ No-one's perfect, we just try to do the best we can. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 14:40

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