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Dash of Inspiration – Credit Where Credit is Due

January 30, 2012

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

Credit Where Credit is Due

As I refer to and re-read the new Submission Guidelines at GCU I was actually pleased to read this particular section:

Creative Use Policy:   “Effective immediately all derivative works containing elements and/or photographs that are not the original creations of the submitting artist, or the reviewer feels are not the original creations of the submitting artist, must have a link(s) to the elements/photograph or thorough source description provided in the Notes to Reviewer . . . (refer to the Wiki to read the rest of this section)

Here’s the thing – there are a tremendous amount of sites out there offering free commercial use elements for your designs; from photographs to presets and most of those places simply ask for CREDIT in lieu of payment for using their imagery. Not too much to ask for, yet I see on POD sites everywhere, people using these works and not providing credit. Sadly, the results of those who abuse the rules are that those resources are going from a free-use with credit to a pay per download such as: – Sam Mugraby offers wonderful photographs and all he asked for was credit, but he finally had enough of the abuse of his photographs so now we can no longer use them without purchasing.  This will happen across the board if the abuse continues.  Yeah, I know . . . you’re right it’s a pet peeve of mine.

So I’d like to inspire all of you using these wonderful design elements to understand what your obligations are when downloading free-use goodies.

Derivative Works/ Remix means to adapt the work not to slap it on a greeting card or t-shirt and sell it. A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works.

Here’s an example of Terms of Use from MorgueFile (which is pretty standard across the board):

“You are free: Remix — to adapt the work and to use this work for commercial purposes. Under the following conditions: YOU MAY NOT use the image in a stand alone basis, you can not sell, license, sub-license, rent, transfer or distribute this image exactly as it is without alteration. You may not claim ownership of this image in its original state.

So what does that mean?   It means you CAN NOT download a photograph or design element and put it on a greeting card with a border and text and sell it.  You can not just change the color.  That would be a stand alone basis.  You CAN download that photograph and paint it, use it or part of it in a digital composition made up of many different elements such as the examples in the article.

Now what about credit?

Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow: If you didn’t create it, then regardless of whether it’s in the Public Domain or from a site like MorgueFile, GIVE CREDIT.  Here’s why – copyrights still apply, even in Public Domain in the sense that you can not claim it as you own; and when that artist, illustrator, photographer dies their rights transfer to their family some 70-years or so (depending on what & where).  Let’s face it, we all know how family can suddenly become greedy.  So, my rule of thumb is to ALWAYS give credit whenever the photograph or elements are recognizable . . . this includes Public Domain!

When working with Brushes and other presets, whether to provide credit or not will be in the license or TOU (terms of use) that come in a text file with the download or the TOU will be posted on the site.  If you find neither, then don’t trust the site and don’t download. If the TOU state to credit the artist then provide it as near to where the brushes were used and as indiscreet as possible.

Here is an example of placing BRUSH credits so that they blend into the image and become part of the visual rather than drawing your eye away from the image to the credits.

and then here is the example blown up to see the credits:


Here are GCU TIPS:


  1. Provide a . . . courtesy of . . . statement ON THE IMAGE because that is the only place that will stay with the card.  Photograph courtesy of MorgueFile for example
  2.  Provide credit in your Artist’s Notes
  3.  Use the Note to Reviewer Section to provide link(s) to the elements in your image which are not yours.  As you’ll note in the Submission Guidelines that I quoted above, the reviewers will start returning cards to you which do not have this information.


  1.  Use a URL address on your image front or in your Artist’s Notes – this is not allowed at GCU.  You can say Photo Courtesy of MorgueFile, but not Photo Courtesy of or
  2.  Make your credit on the image so distracting in color, size and font that it distracts from your work.

Here is an example of placing credits so that they blend into the image and become part of the visual rather than drawing your eye away from the image to the credits:

and then here is the example blown up to see the credits:

Hopefully I’ve inspired those of you who, like me, use these wonderful resources to provide credit to the owner of the image, AND to help speed up your reviews by offering the reviewers links to where you got the imagery!

25 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2012 3:21 pm

    Will GCU really accept on-card credits like in your tent example? It might be proper credit but it flies in the face of being a professionally composed card.

  2. January 30, 2012 4:40 pm

    Tom, GCU has been accepting my cards like these (these included) for two years. It IS professional to provide credit on an image, it’s HOW it’s placed that is usually an issue with GCU

  3. January 31, 2012 9:40 am

    Hi Doreen..
    I agree with giving credit..Ive been giving credits for years…in artist area.

    Some sites DO however let you use the “photographs” “tubes” and so on,,,,,”as is”.
    since we are already providing Links to reviewers to check the sites…for *TOU*

    Do we still need to put credit on ‘those’ cards,,,or not be able to use a photo,,, as is,
    if they don’t require it?

    I just wanted to be sure I’m understanding right.
    Janet Lee

    • February 1, 2012 12:26 am

      Well only GCU will be able to answer your specific question. What I will say is that unless you paid for the license to use the element/photograph, you should give credit. I have seen many of these sites go from ‘don’t bother with attribution’ to ‘credit must be given or we’ll come after you’ – all because of the abuse. So that’s my rule of thumb. If I purchased the license such as I did with Brusheezy and several other places, then I usually don’t bother with credit on the image. But for all other grabs, I give credit regardless what the site states at the time.

      Remember, giving the TOU link to the reviewers is only part of it. The credit issue is insurance on your part that if the owner of that element or their friends, peers, family who might see the work or recognize the piece on your site or product, will also see that proper credit was given. To not do this, in my opinion, is only opening yourself up for trouble.

  4. February 1, 2012 1:33 am

    Yes, Doreen’s usage of on image credits is acceptable by GCU standards as both instances are subtle & professional – two key elements to keep in mind.

    I will say this is one of the most time consuming issues for the review team – 3rd party creative works use. Even though artists check the image rights box with the submission of each card they create GCU does exercise a prudent amount of due diligence checking on image usage & rights. Ultimately it is the artists’ responsibility to know the source of their creative if it is not of their own making and the terms of use and limitations which includes attribution. And ultimately any legal implications for an artist’s creative works misuse is the responsibility and liability of the submitting artist.

    Far too many artists use creative content that is not their own and do not take the time to fully understand the terms of use. Ignorance is not exusable.

    It is because of these issues that via the review process we are asking artists to provide as much information as possible on elements/images that are 3rd party sourced.

    See here on the forum for a related topic on Creative Works Misuse Policy:

    • February 2, 2012 4:13 pm

      Thank you Mindy for stopping by and giving us the ‘official’ GCU point of view on the subject! Very much appreciated by all of us!

  5. February 1, 2012 7:17 pm

    Thank you Ladies,,,,, Better safe than sorry!
    Janet Lee

    • February 2, 2012 4:14 pm

      You are welcome Janet. That is always my motto on this subject and to date it has never been a problem for me.

  6. Mienne permalink
    February 2, 2012 1:15 pm

    This is so informative Doreen. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Janet Lee Designs permalink
    March 8, 2012 9:13 pm

    I have been meticulously placing credits on the front of my cards since we were asked to do this…………… (As we were asked to do) As an artist, I did not like this idea to begin with, *see above.
    Today I have had two cards returned asking me to remove the credits from the front…Not only on those cards … ……..but ALL Cards Ive submitted that I put the credits on.
    Did I Miss A Notice From CGU…or a note here?
    This is going to be very time consuming work for me…if its at all possible on some cards.
    I am trying to get expedited reviews..and this is holding me back.
    Please tell me what I am to do…or please let the reviewers know.
    Which is it? I’m very confused.

    • March 9, 2012 12:39 am

      Hi Janet – My guess is that if you are being asked to REMOVE the credits then it is for one of these reasons. You CAN NOT use a web site, so you CAN NOT say; courtesy of or http://www.SalonOfArt or or

      You CAN use courtesy of SalonOfArt – BTW this rule has been in effect for nearly 3-years because that was a mistake I made when I started.

      The only other thing I can think of is that you are making the credit too large or too obvious and not blending it well into your design so that it is distracting. Without seeing what cards of yours you’ve been asked to fix, those are my only guesses. Hopefully Mindy will tune in and provide a more thorough answer for you.

      • March 9, 2012 12:41 am

        pooh – WP made them all links let me try this:

        You CAN NOT say; courtesy of or zzz.SalonOfArt or or the http version of a web address.

  8. Janet Lee Designs permalink
    March 9, 2012 3:11 am

    No, I know not to add a website address, I only added openclipart.
    Just like that, and that was it. This is why I am so confused, lol.

    • March 9, 2012 3:23 am

      Hmmm, so did you put it like Graphics Courtesy of OpenClipArt or literally just put openclipart somewhere on the image?

      Reason for the question is that put in the context you showed above isn’t obviously giving credit and perhaps part of the problem. It may not have been viewed as such. It should say Graphics by or something like that and it needs to have a professional look to it, like you would find on products. Maybe that’s the issue?

  9. Janet Lee Designs permalink
    March 9, 2012 3:21 am

    Hi Doreen, here is an example of what I am being asked to remove.
    It is just as you have it on your tent example.
    The reviewer is trying to get confirmation before I remove any credits, from All Submitted credited cards,
    however, I removed the credits and resubmitted the new Mindy requested cards … that’s if they want credits on I can just re-add them.
    The reason I am letting you know here is you may want to add a note to this thread when they decide what they want us to do.
    I will keep you posted.
    Janet Lee

  10. March 9, 2012 3:28 am

    Ahhh . . . thank you very helpful!

    Okay, I see the problem. 1st of all it’s like an advertisement, as if the card is by OpenClipArt. You have not given credit you’ve simply put another business name on the card AND that is WAY too big and bold. Subtle is key. You could keep it there on the border but it should be about 4 font sizes smaller, should said Graphics by OpenClipArt and should be faded almost to the point of not being visible.

    The credit that is on the front of the card is to offer recognition once the card is printed. At 5×7, you’d be surprised how easy it is to see very tiny faded credit somewhere tucked in and it covers your butt should it ever be an issue. It really should not be seen, or barely be seen in the large view.

  11. March 9, 2012 9:23 am

    Yes I can see how that would seem like an advertisement from another company. So it needs a “graphics by … ” like I do in the artists notes area, tucked in and barely seen … because in print it will be more legible, I see.
    Now I can understand why the reviewer wants me to change the credits on all the cards. Oh dear, so many to change, I just wish they would have caught my mistake sooner, lol.
    Thank you Corrie, you’re always a big help!
    Janet Lee

    • March 9, 2012 3:51 pm

      Hi Janet – yeah some of these lessons we learn the hard way . . . you are not alone there 🙂 You can say “Graphics by” “Image by”, “Photo by” or “Photo Courtesy of” – be professional about it. Besides, OpenClipArt didn’t design the card front you did, so only give others credit for their element not the entire design.

      Good luck!

  12. March 9, 2012 9:53 pm

    Oh okay, any of the above, I got it!
    Yes, lesson learned..but lets hope they get fewer and further between for me, I’m trying hard to get expedited reviews, lol.

    How true about the design, I was not thinking the way I was giving credit seemed like I was giving total credit to XX.
    I feel a lot better now in having to change those credits!
    Thank you again dear-heart!
    Janet Lee

  13. Ginger permalink
    June 12, 2013 1:16 am

    Thank you for this information; it is very helpful. I’ve been working with my original work (photos), so it is nice to know I can expand by giving credit. I’ll try one or two to make sure I get the info you need entered correctly in the reviewer notes.


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