Adapt an Existing Open Textbook

Attribution Statements and Copyright Notices

All Creative Commons licenses contain an attribution (BY) clause. This means that you must include a statement that gives credit to, or attributes, the creator of the work from whom you have borrowed, whether it’s text, an image, a video, or other item. If you have altered the work in any way, indicate that in your attribution statement.

Citation and Attribution: Is there a difference?

“Citation” and “attribution” are often used as synonyms, but they mean two different things.

Citation is a scholarly practice for tracking the ideological underpinnings of a work, usually referencing sources like published books, articles, government documents, primary sources, etc. If you are creating an adaptation, we suggest that you follow the citation style (APA, MLA, or Chicago, etc.) used by the original author to maintain consistency throughout the open textbook.

Attribution is about crediting a copyright holder according to the terms of a copyright license, usually crediting artistic works like music, fiction, video, and photography.

Adapted from: Cite & Attribute Your Source from Open.Michigan and used under a CC-BY 3.0 license.

As far as how and where to place attribution statements for text or media taken from another source or sources, best practices state that you should place them at the bottom of each affected web page. Clearly mark all of these with the heading: “Attributions.” Several attribution statements can be listed under this heading. Here are a few examples.

Example of an attribution statement for adapted text

This chapter is an adaptation of Natural Disasters and Human Impacts (on Open Geography Education) by R. Adam Dastrup and Maura Hahnenberger, and is used under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 International license.


  • The statement is clear, simple, and contains all elements required for a complete attribution: title of the work used, author(s), and license type. A link is provided to the original work, the home page of the website (this is optional), and the license type.
  • There is no need to name the adapting author in this statement. This information should either be included on the Book Info page as a main author OR if you want to indicate which author wrote/adapted which chapter, you can use the Chapter Author option at the bottom of each chapter/web page in Pressbooks.
  • If the book is to be CC-BY licensed, but you have included material with more restrictive CC licences in your adaptation, you will need to address the conditions dictated by each of these licenses. At the bottom of the Chapter page in Pressbooks, there is an option to set the license type for that page which will override, for this page only, the overarching license chosen for the book on the Book Info page.
  • If the chapter contains some original material AND some material from another source, then rather than saying “This chapter is an adaptation of….”, say “This chapter contains material taken from….”.

Example of an attribution statement for an adapted image

Figure 1.2
Dog by David Locke is used under a CC-BY 2.0 license. Modifications to this photo include cropping.


  • The statement is clear, simple and contains all elements required for a complete attribution: title of the image, photographer, and license type, as well as a note of the changes made. A link is provided to the original work, the home page of the photographer (if available), and the license type. For information on citing and attributing images, see Images: Captions, Attributions and Citations

Compiling Attributions in a Copyright Notice Page

This can be done by tracking changes you make to a work you are adapting in a separate documents or by using a citation style similar to citations in a scholarly paper (footnotes etc.). How you track these changes may depend on how much you wish to deviate from the original work. If you are making substantial changes it may be easier to use footnotes.


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Ryerson Open Textbook Authoring Guide Copyright © 2017 by Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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