How to Use Curator’s Code: A New Way to Attribute your Sources

The Internet has been referred to as being all things to all people. Perhaps not entirely accurate, the sentiment is certainly something we can all embrace in the 21st century. The emergence of the Internet has led to many opportunities and many challenges. One of the greatest challenges stems from having massive amounts of data readily available paired with millions of users—young and old—who don’t fully understand issues of plagiarism and attribution.

Millions of Internet users seem to not even understand the simple fact that something created by someone else can’t be used without permission and at the very least must be properly cited when used to avoid outright claims of plagiarism.

So, what can be done to get content creators and content re-users to give proper credit when they use an image on their website, or re-post someone else’s words, or even proposing ideas that you discovered elsewhere upon which you want to expound and expand? Maria Popova, a contributor to “Atlantic” magazine and the author of “Brainpickings” has launched a website, “The Curator’s Code” (, which she hopes will greatly improve the attribution of discovery across the internet.

Popova’s goal is to “honor and standardize the attribution of discovery across the web.” In short, she’s devised a method for publishers and curators of information to easily credit where credit is due when borrowing or sharing information.

The method is straightforward and is accomplished through the use of two Unicode characters (enlarged to see the detail):

1. ᔥ


The first symbol is “via” and is to be used when you’ve borrowed something directly from another source. If you’ve borrowed some verbatim text, or an image that is copyright protected, simply use the “via” symbol and then identify the source.

Here’s an example. If the following quote is used on your website, then simply use the “via” symbol to show that the work is on your website via another source:

“The unicode character is hotlinked to the Curator’s Code site to allow the ethos of attribution to spread as curious readers click the symbol to find out what it stands for.”

This shows readers that the information was discovered elsewhere and it’s being used exactly as discovered.

If, however, you want to share something you found indirectly, like a story lead, or something you’ve used for inspiration to create something new, the “hat tip” symbol should be used. Here’s an example of how you should use the “hat tip” attribution if you wrote a short poem because you were inspired to write it because of a story you read:

“Hard times have fallen Pick them up as you walk by My arms are too weak”

“Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck

This shows that while the short poem is original but was inspired by John Steinbeck’s book “The Grapes of Wrath” and that you desire to attribute the source of inspiration to the creation of this poem.

So, when should you use the “via” or the “hat tip” symbols?

  • If you are a blog owner and re-post quotes, use the “via” symbol to show where the quotes originated.
  • If your website gathers pictures from motorcycle enthusiasts posing with their bikes, use the “via” symbol to show where the images originated.
  • Was the short story you just posted on your writing website inspired by something you read or learned elsewhere? If so, use the “hat tip” symbol to pay homage to that source of inspiration.

The bottom line in using curator codes is this: Anytime you use, borrow, display, or share something that you don’t own or didn’t create, or drew inspiration from to create something substantially new, use the appropriate symbol to reflect the origin of the work or thought.

Learn more about curator’s codes at (

Tagged as: attribute, blogging, curators code, How to, Tips