This seeems like such a simple question but having a hard time finding a definitive answer. Apologies if it has been asked before (and it feels like it should). Please point me in the right direction if so (I did look!)

According to the CC-BY-SA license, attribution should be given "in a reasonable manner". For something like a font or image with this license used on a website, is it okay to place this in the source code (i.e. HTML, JS or CSS)? I note that Subtle Patterns has this license and allows this explicitly in their FAQs but other resources do not say whether this is a "reasonable manner".

  • Did you try CC's "best practices" for attribution?
    – MadHatter
    Sep 30, 2020 at 13:40
  • Thanks @MadHatter. One of many pages I've flicked through! :) The examples there seem to concentrate on images placed inline and also seems to place the emphasis on what should be in the attribution rather than where it can appear. Images could be used as a backgrounds, fonts can be used throughout a site and JS could perform a function anywhere so attribution next to these items isn't always easy. I guess my question is really - is an attribution in the source code considered "reasonable"?
    – Zakalwe
    Sep 30, 2020 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


OK, let's look at your legal obligations. CC BY-SA 4 says in s3(a)(2) that

You may satisfy the conditions in Section 3(a)(1) in any reasonable manner based on the medium, means, and context in which You Share the Licensed Material. For example, it may be reasonable to satisfy the conditions by providing a URI or hyperlink to a resource that includes the required information.

which isn't, I'd agree, terribly definitive. It's generally well-understood (see best practice guidelines, qv) that for inlined images all good attributions should be placed by the image in question. I understand that for an image used as background that's not possible; your question is whether non-rendering content (eg, HTML or JS comments) constitute a "reasonable manner" for including the attribution.

I would argue they do not. You can't put the attribution beside the image, because the image is used in a way that doesn't permit it. But you should make as few departures from best-practice for inlined images as are required by the way the image is used to have the best chance of justifying your behaviour as "reasonable".

Consider a footer on any page that uses CC BY-SA content for background. Or one might have a specific page for all attributions related to (eg) BY and BY-SA content used on the site, linked to from the top of every page. These are both comparably prominent to the inlined image attribution examples, and easily done for your usage case, and I would argue that they are therefore comparably reasonable.

In summary: IMO, putting the acknowledgments in HTML comments buries them more than is necessitated by the usage case.

  • 1
    Thanks for taking the time to provide guidance.
    – Zakalwe
    Oct 1, 2020 at 22:31
  • IMHO this could even be interpreted as actively trying to circumvent the license, by placing the attribution somewhere where no normal user would ever find it.
    – Felix G
    Oct 5, 2020 at 8:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.