CC-BY-SA License Options on iNat

I’m a resident of Canada and I login to iNat using the domain “”.

The license I’ve been using for my photos on BugGuide is:
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License

I want my iNat license to also be: CC-BY-SA

The iNat license setting dialogue has a choice listed as CC-BY-SA but it does not specify a country nor a license version number.

Is the iNat license actually:
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License?

Does it matter if the same image is licensed as “CC-BY-SA 2.5 Canada” on one site and “CC-BY-SA 4.0 International” on another site? “CC-BY-SA 2.5 Canada” is embedded in my images’ metadata.


Welcome to the forum! I made this post its own topic since it seemed a standalone question.

I’m not 100% sure of the answer, but you can go to an observation on iNat with a given license and scroll to the bottom of the webpage where the license is shown. The license graphic is a link to the page for the relevant license for your observation. The little (cc) logo on each photo will show a link to the relevant page for the license that photo ( for my photos) when clicked on, so I suspect that those will answer your question.

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My understanding is that many consider all CC licenses before 4.0 deprecated (should not be used anymore) due to the lack of a cure provision, see this blog post for why it is such a huge problem:

Everywhere CC licensed works are hosted, the pre-4.0 versions of the Creative Commons licenses — the ones without the “cure” provision — should be disfavored.
What would that look like?

  • Upgrade on Upload: Anytime someone tries to upload a CC image with a pre-4.0 license to a repository like the Internet Archive, Wikimedia Commons, Thingiverse or Github, they should be asked if they are the creator, and, if so, should be prompted to upgrade the license to the current version;
  • Upgrade in Place: Every repository that hosts CC works that carry pre-4.0 licenses should send an email to every account holder urging them to opt into a process to upgrade them immediately to the latest license.
  • Warnings: Every repository that hosts CC works that carry pre-4.0 licenses should place a prominent warning on every page that includes these works, explaining that this work uses an outdated and disfavored license and that a failure to correctly attribute it could attract a $150,000 statutory damages awards.
  • Automated Attribution: Every repository that hosts CC works should have a one-click system to create an attribution string for each of the works it hosts, which is transferred to the user’s clipboard.

So I think it makes sense that inat only supports 4.0 licenses.

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My understanding is that you, as the copyright owner, can release an image under multiple licenses, so there’s no requirement that you must use the same license type or version each time you choose to make the image available. Of course, if you use different licenses in different places, someone reusing your image is only bound by the license that you applied to the particular instance of the image that they obtained.

Then there’s the issue that @wildskyflower mentioned about license versions earlier than 4.0 being deprecated.

As to the issue of embedded metadata, I think that the governing license would be the one you agreed to at a particular site and displayed/linked as applying to your image. If you embed the name of a license in the metadata, that can be helpful as a way of putting image users on notice as to the license you chose, but in case of a conflict I doubt that it would override your actual choice of license when uploading the image. Of course, the best course of action would be to use a consistent license across all sites and it seems that “CC-BY-SA 4.0 International” is the one that best fits your intention. I’m not sure if there’s a way to get BugGuide to offer that license.

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So, to my understanding, the key differences are:

1.) CC-BY-SA 2.5 is only compatible with itself and later versions of the CC-BY-SA license to satisfy the ‘share-alike’ requirement. This restriction suffered from poor interoperability and internationality, so in 3.0 it was clarified that the ‘share-alike’ requirement is satisfied by any designated approved compatible license, such as Free Art license 1.3 and GNU General Public License version 3. So due to that very slight extra permissiveness you can distribute a CC-BY-SA 2.5 as CC-BY-SA 4.0 but not vice versa.
2.) Generally better handling of various international quirks without porting to different international versions.
3.) By far the most important, the addition of the cure provision in 4.0. Basically, in all versions of the license, any violation the license automatically terminates it. In pre-4.0 licenses, a ‘violation’ could be literally as small as a minor technical issue with the exact wording of an attribution to the original author. This was used by trolls to sue people and obtain huge settlements over minor technical defects in attribution. Facilitating lawsuits is the exact opposite of the spirit of the creative commons license. In 4.0, violating the license still terminates it, but the license is reinstated if the violation is corrected within 30 days of notification.
4.) The 4.0 version has a provision where the original creator can specifically request not to be attributed in a particular work that they find objectionable without waiving the right to be attributed otherwise.
5.) Various improvements in the clarity of the wording

Basically, to the best of my knowledge there is no credible articulable reason that anyone would not want to upgrade a license to 4.0. I don’t know what the situation with bug guide is.

I’m not sure if it has been tested legally, but I suspect in this particular scenario you have probably functionally released your content under both licenses. I guess in most plausible scenarios the CC-BY-SA 4.0 International would govern, although you could probably come up with some extremely niche scenario in which a user would somehow violate ‘CC-BY-SA 4.0 International’ but not ‘CC-BY-SA 2.5 Canada’, in which case I guess they could claim they were using the ‘CC-BY-SA 2.5 Canada’ version.

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