A tsunami of copyright infringement

I’m feeling all kinds of frustrated and upset about this, to be honest.
I’ve flagged 1505 (I counted) photos for copyright violations since the start of CNC and it hasn’t even made a dent.

The worst are some groups of students who are posting the same sets of several hundred images, but with completely different dates, locations, and IDs. Any single one on its own looks legit, until you realize it’s been posted by 50 different accounts. And since the locations and IDs are changed, it’s really hard to find them with search filters.

If anyone wants to help me, I’ve created a search link that contains a lot of these shared images, as well as some taken from other places on the internet. (And some similar-looking but legitimate ones too, so be careful to avoid those.)


yeah I was alerted to a case where someone had uploaded a Ricinus photo, and then at least 10 other users all posted the exact same photo as their own observation, with varying location data, metadata, etc. Very frustrating


Unfortunately I’ve noticed this as well.
I don’t mind the ones where the animal is obviously captive e.g. some GloFish, but it is frustrating to see people uploading photos of themselves and friends and IDing them as “Naked Mole Rat” or “American Eel”. As a student myself I would be lying if I said these weren’t a little bit funny, but it is frustrating. Recently there was a high school in southern California that I am assuming had to make iNat accounts for science class as at least 15 accounts reposted images of their goldfish and guppy tanks. I’m not sure if this falls under copyright infringement as TECHNICALLY the images are not identical but it is frustrating nonetheless. I usually just mark them as captive and move on. Should I be flagging these? What about the ones with frivolous IDs?

@graysquirrel Apologies if this isn’t quite the same as the issue you are describing


this became an immediate issue just browsing though that search link. such a headache to deal with. thank you for taking the time and effort to go through so many of them so far, and thank you for sharing it here to bring it to people’s attention. this too shall pass.


if all the accounts are uploading their own images of the tank, that’s not an issue. if it’s the exact same image, that would be a problem. it sounds like they’re just getting different angles of the same organism(s) though, which is completely fine. mark them as captive, hit review, carry on.


ah ok thank you for the clarification. What should I do about the people uploading observations of themselves and their friends?

this though, please flag those identifications because they should be hidden (if offensive, like naked mole rat example) and corrected. humans should be identified as “human”.


ID them as human, and for ones that are clearly intended to be offensive, or the misID is clearly intentional, feel free to flag them. If a user posts one or two of these, write a comment explaining why they shouldn’t be doing it and point them to resources for getting started. But if someone is consistently posting many, it can be grounds for suspension


sounds good thank you

For the next step I suggest to suspend all these accounts (so that identifiers stop wasting their time), until someone claims that all photos are theirs, then delete all accounts, or all but one.

(Fortunately, I am not a curator).


curators cannot delete people’s accounts, and nothing discussed in this thread is grounds for deletion

in some cases, especially with new users, they have no idea that they are breaching copyright, so whilst having to engage with individual users is of course time consuming and often frustrating, immediately suspending someone because they used the same photo as their friend on one or two occasions is certainly not a fair approach


Sometimes these problems also stem from teachers who don’t know how to use iNat properly, and create assignments involving uploading photo sets they provide to the students.


Yes, of course. As often happens, the “bug” is not the new user who is often a young kid who (understandably) wants to have fun and does not take iNat seriously. The true “bug” is those who organize events without being able to manage them. I also verified that in some cases these organizers are brand new users themselves with no or just few observations, and likely without a precise idea of what iNat really is. This can be a problematic combination.

The suspension proposed by @jeanphilippeb is an extrema ratio solution that in certain critical cases should be evaluated. Sad but true.


Best option would be of Inaturalist using AI to detect duplicate pictures and automatic flag them…

The technology already exists (Google Lense, TinEye, etc) so this is nothing to be build from scratch.


That. Is a long standing open request … don’t hold your breath.

I pick up a daily trickle of obs that have clearly wandered over the map of the world … where … shall I put this obs? Dumped ‘somewhere in Africa’ when it is clearly - location wrong - which makes it Casual.


Although a slightly different problem, I’ve been very frustrated recently by different users uploading observations of the same organism, mushrooms, with bad and non-informative photos, and slightly differing focus or distance of the organism, for one of them, I counted 9 observations of the same thing (!!), probably taken with a group of friends, or students, I don’t know. And it’s been a recurring issue, recently.

I tried bringing this up with other curators, and they disregarded this as not an issue. Now, I understand that iNaturalist can be a platform for people to be engaged in nature, being aware of the surrounding biodiversity, and have fun while recording and sharing this diversity, and I’m totally up for that. But I also see iNaturalist as an incredible tool for scientists to track the distribution and frequency of species, specially for mushrooms, which are very ephemeral, understudied, and we lack occurrence data, specially in the tropics. But for that, I believe, we need just a tiny bit more rigor when uploading observations, and I don’t think bloating the database with bad photos of the same thing helps much at all.

I don’t have a right guideline on how to deal with this, besides trying to explain to users why this practice can disrupt occurrence data of the species, and feeding of the Computer Vision.


This can be frustrating, but as @thebeachcomber noted above, as long as the observers are each taking their own photos, this is ok. It actually will help the CV training to have multiple, different “real world” pics of organisms of varying quality and from varying devices. So unless that one specific individual organism makes up a large proportion of the pics available for a given taxon on iNat, this shouldn’t be a major issue and may actually help.


Honestly, at this point I think that things like the CNC and teachers using students to collect iNat data for classes should be stopped, or at least heavily discouraged.

Pretty much every time this sort of thing happens and it’s a mess, especially when teachers and students are involved.


I believe this is not an issue that can or should be solved at the user’s side - although I was also thinking about this. iNaturalist does not provide easily interpretable data on distribution or abundance of organisms. With the same logic, it could be requested that people do not record observations preferentially from the nicest and best accessible city parks because it is generating biased high species abundance and diversity for these parks. If repeated observation of same individual is seen as a major problem of iNat data I suggest there is rather a misunderstanding of what the iNaturalist data can and can not tell.

Going outdoors with friends or as a member of an excursion and iNating during CNC is an activity that CNC tries to encourage. Imposing any guidelines on repeated observations of the same individual would discourage such fun group activities.


I don’t think it is that huge of a deal, but I also don’t see it as a good practice to encourage. I don’t think that it is a fun breaker for people in a group out in nature or during CNC to not upload observations of the same thing found at the exact same time. Actually, I believe it could encourage them to pay attention to a lot of other things around them. But yes, you can’t force people to not do this, maybe if iNaturalist had an option to make subsequent observations of the same thing at the same time be marked with Casual.