I recently read a blog post that featured this cute picture of 2 meerkats.  I couldn’t see an image credit under the photo, so I looked at the bottom of the page, and found “Image source: Pixabay ”

This did not tell me enough about the image.  Clicking on the link, I learned that Pixabay is an online source of Creative Commons and stock images.  By doing a Google search for that image, I could find the precise URL of the meerkat image, https://pixabay.com/en/meerkat-animal-wild-wildlife-255564/ (as well as 402 other pages using the image!). I read that this is a Creative Commons licensed photo (CC Public Domain), but also that the image is “Free for commercial use / No attribution required”. The person who uploaded the image to Pixabay is peterstuartmill – is he the author of the image?

So now I have a problem! The Pixabay page may say “No attribution required” but in my academic world, I need to be able to give more details about the image.  If I use an image in my work which I did not create, I must provide a citation, even if the image is in the public domain. The meerkat image source page doesn’t give me enough information to create  an appropriate Creative Commons citation for the picture: I need to know the title, author, source and license.  For an MLA citation, I also need the date of electronic publication. There is no legal requirement to attribute works in the Public Domain to their creators, but doing so is an important part of maintaining academic integrity.

Depending on which citation style I plan to follow, I have several options. Following Creative Commons best practices for attribution guide, I could use

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/meerkat-fur-small-face-mouth-316736/  License: CC Public Domain.

Using the MLA guide for electronic images, I could post

Peterstuartmill. Meerkat. Digital image. Pixabay. N.p., July 2014. Web. 31 July 2015. <https://pixabay.com/en/meerkat-animal-wild-wildlife-255564/>.

In  Effective Citing and Referencing  the IBO encourages “giving full details (references) to enable another reader to locate the sources.”  It is very important that students give correct attribution in their work, and it is equally important that teachers know how to do it, and teach it in all classes.

And how will I cite the image on this blog post? More informally –