Open (Free) Textbooks: Attributing Open Textbooks

Information and instruction for MP lecturers/teachers about locating, evaluating, and adapting or adopting free textbooks for their subjects, courses or students

What is attribution?

Attribution is the practice of giving credit to the person who created the work that you have used.  This might be the author of an Open Textbook that you've adopted; the creator of diagrams that you add to your adapted Open Textbook; or any other item that was not originated by you.

The attribution takes the form of a structured statement that clearly indicates who the originator is, plus other details.

Most Creative Commons licenses insist on attribution.  

Attribution: the basics

Attribution is a condition of any CC license that includes BY in its name: 

CC BY-SA  ShareAlike
CC BY-ND  NoDerivs
‚ÄčCC BY-NC  NonCommercial
CC BY-NC-SA  NonCommercial-ShareAlike
CC BY-NC-ND  NonCommercial-NoDerivs  

The "BY" part of the license name indicates that, in order to comply with any of these licenses, you are compelled to attribute the original work from which you've derived your information.


If your plan is to adapt an Open Textbook - anything with a No Derivatives license will not be suitable for that purpose as the license prohibits distribution of the modified material.

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Attribution guidelines

Attribution guidelines for Creative Commons licensed works can be found on the license deeds of each of the BY licenses. 

The attribution statement attached to all CC BY licenses looks like this:

What information is included in an attribution?

As the license deed information (above) suggests, it is necessary for you to give appropriate credit. 

Appropriate credit includes:
Credit the creator
    Provide the title of the work
    Provide the URL where the work is hosted
    Indicate the type of license attached to the work, and provide a link to the license
    Keep intact any copyright notice associated with the work

Source: "Smartcopying: the Official Guide to Copyright Issues for Australian Schools and TAFE" by National Copyright Unit.  Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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Sample attribution: Attributing the Adaptation Guide

This example shows how to attribute the Adaptation Guide (featured in the Adapting Open Textbooks Tab of this LibGuide)  


Credit the creator (and web link, if available) BC Campus Open Education
Provide the title of the work Adaptation guide: a reference to adapting or revising an open textbook
Provide the URL where the work is hosted

Indicate the type of license attached to the work CC BY 4.0 International License
Provide a link to the license
Keep intact any copyright notice attached to the work No noticed attached

 Use clever linking when constructing your attribution

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What will the attribution look like?

The attribution will look like this (though other variations are possible:   

"Adaptation Guide: A reference to adapting or revising an open textbook" by BC Campus Open Education is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

How is this attribution formed?
the title is noted as "Adaptation Guide ...", and is linked to its web location
Author:  the author's name is noted, and is linked to the author's web page
License:  the license type is noted, and is linked to the license deed at CC

A few things to consider ...

A few things to consider:
There is a certain amount of flexibility permitted in how you arrange your attribution, and the order in which you place details. Creative Commons state that: "CC licenses have a flexible attribution requirement, so there is not necessarily one correct way to provide attribution"
Source:  Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions

Your attribution can be made to look much more readable by employing smart linking:  eg link the title to its web location; the author to their web address, if you have one; the CC license to its web address etc

When you can't locate a piece of information for your attribution, construct your attribution without it.

Further information on attributing

Click the image (above) to learn more


Click the image (above) to access the factsheet