I am writing my thesis and came across an image on Wikipedia that I would like to use. The licensing on this image is:

I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In some countries this may not be legally possible; if so: I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.

Should I still include a reference to indicate this image is not my own work, if so, who should be given credit (the author is not known in this case)?

  • 1
    I don't know if you have to (IANAL), but I would still state where you found it (Source: Wikimedia Commons) to avoid claims of plagiarism.
    – gerrit
    Mar 7, 2013 at 9:50

2 Answers 2


Should I still include a reference to indicate this image is not my own work

YES If the idea is not yours, you need to reference it.

Who should be given credit

That is a harder question. Ideally, you should find the original author/source. Given a reasonable attempt to find the original author/source fails then reference the secondary/reproduction (i.e., wikipedia/wikimedia).

  • 4
    +1 I don't know how many students have submitted papers to me including images in the public domain thinking they do not need to be cited. No citation means you are claiming you are the author.
    – earthling
    Mar 7, 2013 at 23:18
  • There is a huge difference between (not) having to cite due to laws and having to cite because of the idea that you seperate your own ideas from someone else's.
    – Xiphias
    Oct 11, 2014 at 8:44

Here are the recommendations from Wikimedia Commons:

Content in the public domain may not have a strict legal requirement of attribution (depending on the jurisdiction of content reuse), but attribution is recommended to give correct provenance.

Other restrictions may apply. These may include trademarks, patents, personality rights, moral rights, privacy rights, or any of the many other legal causes which are independent of copyright and vary greatly by jurisdiction.

The rest of the page is very informative as well.

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