Allow multiple licenses for observations, photos, and sounds

I would like to propose that iNaturalist allows users to assign multiple licenses to their contributions, whether they are observations, photos or sounds.

Like @murphyslab argued in an old comment, for contributions to be usable to both Wikipedia and GBIF, you’d have to use the rather liberal CC-BY-license. For some people, like semi-professional or professional photographers, that may not be acceptable.

One solution to this would be if iNaturalist allowed contributors to use (at least) dual licensing of photos (but it should apply to observations and sounds as well), as is relatively common practice in CC communities.

Personally, I’m generally fine with CC-BY-SA, if someone is able to make a business out of sharing stuff with my stuff in it, then more power to them. I am also fine with CC-BY-NC, but not alone, that’s too restrictive, and it also prevents my stuff from being used by Wikipedia, and I’d like to contribute there.

CC-BY is too liberal for some things, I have observations from old expeditions that may have some scientific value that I wouldn’t want to license with just CC-BY for others to make a monetary profit from without me having any rights to a share of that profit.

Dual licensing with both CC-BY-NC and CC-BY-SA is the ideal solution, as that would imply that users may comply with either license.

I am sure others can come up with other combination of licenses, thus the ideal solution would be a change to iNat that allows people to select multiple licenses.

Alternatively, I suppose that the dual license CC-BY-NC and CC-BY-SA could be added to the list of selections that one might make. It is not as flexible, but it would solve this exact issue right now.

Be sure to add your own vote to your feature request

if your image is licensed in iNat as NC, and you want to also use it in WikiWorld, you could just load your image to Wikimedia and license it there as SA, right?

There’s a not-so subtle difference here that you’re ignoring. It’s the difference between:

  1. I want to be able to use my image on Wikipedia / Wikimedia, and
  2. I want others to be able to use my image on Wikipedia / Wikimedia.

The first point is a non-issue. Anyone can do that. I have done that.. But it doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

It’s already been noted in the form of the Needed images list (wiki) for existing Wikipedia articles. It’s a big list. It would not be worth the time and effort to search through that list trying to see if I have an observation for that matches the list of entries. Simply:

  1. I (generally) don’t know which of my images would be useful or are needed on Wikipedia/Wikimedia.
  2. I don’t have time (and it’s fair to assume that this is true of most others) to check everything observation that I’ve made to ask, “Does Wikipedia need an image of this?” That is something better executed by people who are editing the articles or a bot, as I’ve suggested before:

The progress on that list itself has largely been achieved by people acting in the same way as a bot would: Working from the list to go search through iNaturalist and ask people.

But the “need to ask” creates two frictions: You need a response (good luck!) and you need the individual’s effort to change the license on iNat (potentially removing the observation from GBIF) or to upload it to Wikimedia with the second license.

Is there any argument that actually is directly against dual licensing?

P.S. @kjekje Thanks for posting this. It’s good to see that the idea would be useful to others here, particularly the professional photographers who are willing to contribute. You have my upvote.

1 Like

I changed the topic title from “posts” to “observations, photos, and sounds”, since on iNat “posts” usually refers to journal posts.

mostly, i think it’s overly complicated and confusing to allow folks to choose multiple licenses, especially if implemented in a way that allows users to select any combination of CC licenses.

also, it just seems unnecessary to me to do this primarily as a means to make more images available to Wikiworld. i appreciate that Wikiworld exists, and i appreciate folks who devote their time and resources to that effort. but it’s Wikiworld’s own policies that preclude NC-licensed images from being used there. the overseers there made that policy choice, fully understanding the challenges that choice would create. it’s fine that they want to promote an open source ethos, but it’s not up to the rest of the world to follow suit (such as by iNat promoting SA as a good choice for image licensing).

would it be nice that every Wikipedia article has a nice image on it? sure. does every article need an image? probably not, especially given that search engines exist and other repositories of knowledge such as iNat exist.

i understand that it might be frustrating for someone writing a Wikipedia article that there are no suitably licensed images available for the article, even while there are plenty of images out there. but Wikiworld’s overseers’ own guidance is that Wikiworld contributors can wait for suitable images to become available.

1 Like

I’d like to note that it is in fact very common to have multiple licenses, and it does not seem like it has caused any substantial confusion, we should have noticed by now if it did.

Apart from the fact that the CC FAQ mentions it, Wikipedia has also worked a lot with dual licenses, mostly for rather strong historical reasons.

The entire ecosystem around Perl, with tens of thousands of modules has had dual licenses for decades. Qt has had several since just after the dawn of ages. There are more examples on Wikipedia.

OK, I can see I made this look too much as a Wikiworld compatibility issue. It is not, it is really more about how to encourage the growth of commons. In general, it is not only OK, but critical to the growth of certain artifacts that you can make a living around it. That enables people to put a bigger part of their time into something, and so, I simply don’t want to license stuff NC unless I think that only I should make that profit. Compiling collections, adding analysis to things for profit are amongst the things I think should be encouraged. That is something that can be done with SA but not with NC. SA then encourages the growth of the entire ecosystem in a way that not having the SA constraint does not.

More liberal licenses are appropriate if you want to achieve other effects than grow the commons, but that’s not the issue here.