This is prompted by a recent discussion below a post (I link to my final comment, but please take the time to read all the comments there).

I have the feeling that recently the way images are attributed might not be satisfactory, and the discussion linked provide an example of why I think so. If the attribution would have been given since the beginning most of that discussion would not have happened.

If you go back to the page linked above, you will notice that also the other answer has extremely generic attributions for the photos ("airliners.net", like they have only a couple of photos on their website).

Compare this with an edit of a year and a half ago: the link was already there, but not obvious enough and it got added again [please note that I appreciated the edit and I am in no way complaining about it]

Should we require then that all photos be sourced with a direct link to the page from which they are taken? Or is "boeing.com" (and similars) an acceptable attribution?


3 Answers 3


The first part of your question was sort-of discussed over here - to broadly restate my opinion (which, for the record, is based on US copyright standards): A direct reference (link) isn't always necessary for every image used (though sometimes it is - images licensed under CC:By for example).

I would not suggest that we implement an "all images must be explicitly attributed" policy as a global requirement for this site, but rather that we encourage common sense: Attribution should be included where it is requested by the original content's author, where it is relevant/helpful in understanding the answer, and in any other case where it can be done without seriously impacting readability.

For two recent examples: when you crib a diagram from an FAA Advisory Circular linking to the AC is helpful, but linking to the source for the compass card photo wouldn't be particularly useful (as it's a pretty generic image), and linking to the source for the compass photo would be dumb (I cropped that out of a 3MB full-resolution photo of an instrument panel - the compass is the only relevant bit).

Since we require attribution when people use our content it's generally the decent thing to do when we use someone else's content, but ultimately "Google Image Search" is a thing that exists, and if someone is really upset we're using their image without proper credit they can file a DMCA notice with Stack Exchange and the issue will be dealt with.

To the new point you're raising: From a content-quality standpoint bad/generic attribution ("It's from Boeing", "It's from airliners.net", etc.) is (IMHO) worse than no attribution.

The point of attribution on a site like this is not just to credit the original author: It's providing a citation to enable an unaffiliated third party reader to find your source materialand assess its credibility. If the citation (attribution) doesn't lead to a useful place it's not helpful.

Again using one of my recent examples: If I simply said the compass rose diagram came "From the FAA" you would be hard pressed to turn up the specific advisory circular I was looking at: It provides attribution, but it's not a useful citation for someone looking for more information.
By linking to the advisory circular I lifted the image from I'm providing useful context that would enable someone to continue their own research if they wanted to know more about compass pad design and construction (and saving myself having to retype large chunks of the AC to give context to my answer).


I'm supporting most of @Federico and @voretaq7 ideas. My solution to referencing a resource is this one:

enter image description here

Just for clarification, there are distinct aims behind the attrition:

  • Fulfill legal obligations: Difficult here to know what they are, due to the multiple legal frameworks involved around the world (and maybe the lack of knowledge of the server location).

    Be aware that there are quite unknown laws related to e.g. architectural work (see 1.6, in France even if the building is in public view, even if it's paid by the tax payer, it's not allowed to publish a photography, even yours. It applies as well to private or public gates (those guys living in the past centuries are quite ridiculous in the era of photography and video devices embedded in every object). Fortunately Europe institutions are starting to look at this aspect to relax obligations.

    For this legal aspect, I'll keep off unfair and/or damageable use based on my understanding of interests, and local laws (the one I'm aware of...)

  • Be honest and thankful to the author, inform that this is not your own work, that you are using work from someone else. It's a must if you are a bit brought up. I think providing a link (as I usually do) with the clickable area saying (source) and linking to the containing page is enough, as I'm not either advertising their names or sites, or whatever (I already drive users to their work), and I'm not listing all the legal aspects that allow me to use the resource.

  • Allow others to assess whether it's possible to reuse this image: The link used to provide the source is quite enough to dig into this topic. It's the reader's duty to do this assessment, not mine.

  • Allow others to look at the information associated with the resource: It's typically missing in this question. That's why it's better to provide a link to the containing page, not to the resource itself.

One exception I'd have is to provide the full question title as clickable when linking to SE pages, to inform this resource is from the site.

A personal comment: Several questions are clearly inspired by looking at Quora. I've seen some pushing it to reuse the image the original author provided :( Do we want the site to grow this way?

By the way, if the workers (or their families) on the image above had been paid by the many who made money directly or indirectly with the photo, they would be very rich. That's only recently the author of this image was given credit.


The stackexchange network provides all Q/A under a free license. It will significantly benefit from proper attribution and proper licenses in the pictures. We should adopt the well established wikipedia-way for references.

The only difference to wikipedia is that self-published media makes sense on sx and there should be a simple button to tag it as such.

We do not have a free Q/A database, if the pictures or other content has bad licenses or if they lack proper attribution.


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