Whether you are blogging, creating an ebook, or publishing a print book, it’s important to know something about attribution. When you give attribution to a work you are giving the creator the credit he/she is due.
We have spoken often before in this blog about the need for some act beyond attribution when publishing someone else’s work. Permission is required for many uses of another’s copyrighted works. Some readers may have gotten the mistaken impression that because attribution is not enough in many cases, it is not important or not needed. However, the act of acquiring permission does not substitute for giving credit. In many cases both actions are required.
Publishers who have been granted a license to use another’s work should pay careful attention to what the grantor requires in the way of attribution. Ignoring this section of the license could void the agreement and leave them without protection from a claim of infringement. Although permission items that we have cleared for our writers often have required specific attribution statements spelled out in the permission grant, we are seeing a tendency for some writers to forgo these attribution lines.
As we analyze acknowledgment pages and credits given on blogs, we see a carelessness in giving a full credit that really informs about the source. A copyrighted entry taken from a quote marked Creative Commons, for example, needs more than the two words “Creative Commons” in most cases. There are six Creative Commons licenses. The attribution should give the particular license the publisher is using, and the user should be sure they are following all the requirements of that Creative Commons license. If the attribution is given online, a link back to the specific Creative Commons license is a good idea.
It is true that attribution requirements are getting longer in some cases. Some copyright owners want more info included than they required in the past in their attribution line. Examples we have personally seen include company or personal website URLs or a special title the rights holder has acquired. The print space needed to comply with a license attribution requirement may be more than the writer is willing to allow to a specific copyrighted item. If that is the case, they should consider negotiating the terms specified in the attribution section of the license or substituting the particular item in question for another with a requirement that takes up less space.
Go here to see Google’s nicely detailed attribution guidelines for Google Maps and Google Earth and what they have to say to people who want to use images but cannot agree to these attribution guidelines. Find the answer to the last question: “I cannot agree to your attribution requirements. Do I have other options?”
It is common knowledge or part of best practices in publishing that an attribution line doesn’t always have to follow the order of the requirement in the license. If every credit line had to follow the exact structure specified in a grant, it would often create havoc with any attempt to maintain a style for credit entries. However, some may mistakenly assume that if structure doesn’t matter, inclusion of all required content doesn’t matter either.
It may help motivate publishers to use caution when shortening required credit lines to remember that after their work has enjoyed a certain amount of success and they have sold the number of copies the license allows, they will have to go back to the copyright owner for permission to use their work in a number of copies beyond what the original license covered. Since the copyright owner, the licensor, often has required a copy of the licensee’s work be provided as a condition of the grant, it may come to his attention that the licensee skimped on the specified credit and deny the new request.
Also consider protecting your own work by requiring that a credit line of your choosing accompany any work belonging to you that someone else wishes to include in their work. You can inform readers how to request permission or give them all your requirements for acknowledgment in an obvious place in your work. You can make a borrower aware of your wishes with a statement on the copyright page of your book or on your website if your work is posted online.
Attribution for works is important to their creators, and the more publishers practice giving credit and requiring credit where credit is due, the better the resulting works will be because creators are motivated by acknowledgment of their achievements.
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