Attribution (copyright)

Attribution, in copyright law, is acknowledgement as credit to the copyright holder or author of a work. If a work is under copyright, there is a long tradition of the author requiring attribution while directly quoting portions of work created by that author.

An author may formally require attribution required via a license, legally preventing others from claiming to have written the work and allowing a copyright holder to retain reputational benefits from having written it. In cases when the copyright holder is the author themselves, this behavior is often moralized as a sign of decency and respect to acknowledge the creator by giving them credit for the work.

This said, a work in the public domain, which is any not covered by copyright, has no such attribution requirement in most parts of the world. This is the distinguishing factor between plagiarism, which is not a crime, and copyright infringement, which may be a cause of legal action from the author.

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Creative Commons license symbol for attribution.

Copyright holder attribution

The most fundamental form of attribution is the statement of the copyright holder's identity, often in the form Copyright © [year] [copyright holder’s name]. The preservation of such a notice was an invariable requirement to prevent a work entering the public domain; this changed in the United States on March 1, 1989 when the requirement of copyright registration and copyright signment was ended. Copyright holder attribution is in most countries in the world not required, due to Berne convention.

Author attribution

Author attribution is required by several licenses, such as the open-content Creative Commons licenses and most free and/or open source software licenses such as the MIT permissive license. Open content licenses without the requirement for author attribution include public domain equivalent licenses, like CC0.

See also

Acknowledgment (creative arts and sciences)

In the creative arts and scientific literature, an acknowledgement (also spelled acknowledgment in American and Canadian English) is an expression of a gratitude for assistance in creating an original work.

Receiving credit by way of acknowledgement rather than authorship indicates that the person or organization did not have a direct hand in producing the work in question, but may have contributed funding, criticism, or encouragement to the author(s). Various schemes exist for classifying acknowledgements; Cronin et al. give the following six categories:

moral support

financial support

editorial support

presentational support

instrumental/technical support

conceptual support, or peer interactive communication (PIC)Apart from citation, which is not usually considered to be an acknowledgement, acknowledgement of conceptual support is widely considered to be the most important for identifying intellectual debt. Some acknowledgements of financial support, on the other hand, may simply be legal formalities imposed by the granting institution. Occasionally, bits of science humor can also be found in acknowledgements.There have been some attempts to extract bibliometric indices from the acknowledgments section (also called "acknowledgments paratext") of research papers in order to evaluate the impact of the acknowledged individuals, sponsors and funding agencies.


Attribution may refer to:

Attribution (copyright), concept in copyright law requiring an author to be credited

Attribution (law), legal doctrines by which liability is extended to a defendant who did not actually commit the criminal act

Attribution (marketing), concept in marketing of assigning a value to a marketing activity based on desired outcome

Attribution (psychology), concept in psychology whereby people attribute traits and causes to things they observe

Performance attribution, technique in quantitative finance for explaining the active performance of a portfolio

Attribution (journalism), the identification of the source of reported information


The byline on a newspaper or magazine article gives the name of the writer of the article. Bylines are commonly placed between the headline and the text of the article, although some magazines (notably Reader's Digest) place bylines at the bottom of the page to leave more room for graphical elements around the headline. defines a byline as "a printed line of text accompanying a news story, article, or the like, giving the author's name".

Credit (creative arts)

In general, the term credit in the artistic or intellectual sense refers to an acknowledgement of those who contributed to a work, whether through ideas or in a more direct sense.

Murphy v. Millennium Radio Group LLC

Murphy v. Millennium Radio Group LLC is a 2011 U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals case concerning the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), copyright infringement, and defamation with regards to the online posting of a photocopy of a magazine photograph. After New Jersey radio station WKXW 101.5 copied onto its website a magazine picture of two of the station's talk show hosts, Craig Carton and Ray Rossi, the photographer of the picture, Peter Murphy, brought a suit against station owner Millennium Radio Group, as well as Carton and Rossi. The Third Circuit ruled that the station's actions did constitute both a violation of the DMCA and copyright infringement, which vacated the district court's judgment.This case marked the first time a circuit court weighed in on the scope of DMCA §1202, which prohibits the removal of Copyright Management Information (CMI). CMI is a collection of facts about the copyright on a work that is somehow attached to that work. The Third Circuit stated that the statute applied to all CMI, and was not limited to CMI in technological systems.

Public copyright license

A public license or public copyright license is a license by which a copyright holder as licensor can grant additional copyright permissions to any and all persons in the general public as licensees.

By applying a public license to a work, provided that the licensees obey the terms and conditions of the license, copyright holders give permission for others to copy or change their work in ways that would otherwise infringe copyright law.

Some public licenses, such as the GNU GPL and the CC BY-SA, are also considered free or open copyright licenses.

However, other public licenses like the CC BY-NC are not open licenses, because they contain restrictions on commercial or other types of use.Public copyright licenses do not limit their licensees. In other words, any person can take advantage of the license. The former Creative Commons (CC) Developing Nations License was not a public copyright license, because it limited licensees to those in developing nations. Current Creative Commons licenses are explicitly identified as public licenses. Any person can apply a CC license to their work, and any person can take advantage of the license to use the licensed work according to the terms and conditions of the relevant license.According to the Open Knowledge Foundation, a public copyright license does not limit licensors either. Under this definition, license contract texts specific to a single licensor (like the UK government’s Open Government License, which would have to be edited to be used by other licensors) are not considered public copyright licenses, although they may qualify as open licenses.

Some organisations approve public copyright licenses that meet certain criteria, in particular being free or open licenses. The Free Software Foundation keeps a list of FSF-approved software licenses and free documentation licenses. The Open Source Initiative keeps a similar list of OSI-approved software licenses. The Open Knowledge Foundation has a list of OKFN-approved licenses for content and data licensing.

Signature block

A signature block (often abbreviated as signature, sig block, sig file, .sig, dot sig, siggy, or just sig) is a block of text automatically appended at the bottom of an email message, Usenet article, or forum post.

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