How to Apply a Creative Commons License to an Image

We strongly recommend applying Creative Commons licenses to your images, and thankfully, it is quite easy to do so. Below we discuss the benefits of applying CC licenses to images and instances in which it is not appropriate to apply a Creative Commons license to an image, as well as the process of applying a Creative Common license to an image using Creative Commons’ online license builder and Flickr.

Benefits of Applying a Creative Commons License to an Image

By giving an image a Creative Commons license, you:

  • Can encourage people to link back to your site (so long as you require attribution in your license, people will be required to link back to your work when using your image)
  • Increase the number of people who are exposed to your work (by encouraging people to post it elsewhere online)
  • Help others by providing them with a piece of content that might improve their own work
  • Make it possible for people to find your work through Creative Commons search engines (so long as you apply the proper metadata)

When NOT to Apply a Creative Commons License to an Image

We do not recommend applying a Creative Commons license to an image if:

  • You intend to sell it as an online copy
  • You did not create the image yourself
  • The image incorporate’s someone else’s copyrighted work
  • The image incorporate’s someone else’s Creative Commons image, and that image has a no derivatives stipulation in its license (which means it is not to be altered)

Easy Requirements to Specify in a Creative Commons Image

Just because you enable others to easily share your work does not mean you have to relinquish control over how your image is used. You can easily specify that your work is:

  • Attributed: To make sure that your work is attributed, make give it an Attribution license (abbreviated as CC-BY)
  • Not altered: To make sure that your work remains unchanged as a whole give it an Attribution-NoDerivs license (abbreviated as CC-BY-ND)
  • Shareable: To make sure that your work, whether just displayed or altered, is shared under similar terms, give it an Attribution-ShareAlike license (abbreviated as CC-BY-SA)
  • Noncommercial: To make sure that your work is not used for commercial purposes, give it an Attribution-NonCommercial license (abbreviated as CC-BY-NC)

Want lots of control? Worry not. The above variations can be combined (e.g. you can license an image as CC-BY-NC-ND).

How to Apply a Creative Commons License to an Image

Choose a Creative Commons LicenseWe recommend using Creative Commons’ online tool for creating Creative Commons licenses because it applies the metadata required to make it possible to find your image through creative commons search engines. To create a Creative Commons license using Flickr’s license builder:

  1. Visit Creative Commons’ website
  2. Click on “Licenses” in the top navigation bar and select ”Choose a License
  3. Specify the features of your license, especially indicating in the “Format of Work” drop down menu (bottom left box) that you are creating a license for an image
  4. Copy the HTML that appears in the bottom right box
  5. Paste it in the appropriate location of the page on which your image appears (we recommend including it as a caption beneath the image)

How to Apply a Creative Commons License to Flickr Photos

Should you not want to apply a Creative Commons license to every image you create, we recommend uploading your photos to Flickr and giving each batch you upload a Creative Commons license. Flickr’s Creative Commons is an incredibly popular CC photo archive and is a great place for your work to be found.

To apply a Creative Commons license to photos as you upload them to Flickr:

  1. Apply Creative Commons License in FlickrLog into your Flickr account
  2. Upload photos
  3. Be sure to add a descriptive title and caption to each image so that they show up in appropriate results
  4. Select all of your photos
  5. Under Owner Options > Licenses, click “edit”
  6. Select the type of Creative Commons license you would like to apply to this set of images
  7. Make sure that your privacy settings enable the public to view and access the images via search
  8. Click the upload button at the top right of the page and acknowledge that you indeed wanted to apply the Creative Commons license and make the image public

To apply a Creative Commons license to images you have already uploaded:

  1. Change Licensing on FlickrLog into your Flickr account
  2. Under “You” in the top navigation bar, select “organize”
  3. Drag photos into the editing space to apply a license to them as a badge (you can also utilize the “Select All” option to apply the same license to all of your images at the same time
  4. Under “Permissions” select “Change License”
  5. Select the license you would like to apply to your images
  6. Click on the blue “Change License” button
  7. Voila! The change will be made!

Change License on Flickr to Creative Commons